This health video looks into the powerful effect of the mind when unknowingly using placebos.
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Jennifer Mathews : Life wasn't always a walk in the park for Janis Schonfeld. Janis Schonfeld: I would tear and cry for no reason, just driving my daughter to school. Jennifer Mathews : Janis was clinically depressed. So she enrolled in a study at UCLA where she received pills for her depression. Janis Schonfeld: With each passing week, I just felt that I was really getting better. Jennifer Mathews: But her pills actually contained no medicine, just sugar. Janis was part of a study designed to examine the placebo effect. Andrew Leuchter: We knew that some patients had a transient relief of symptoms. What we didn't know was that we could actually alter the way the brain worked. Jennifer Mathews: In the eight-week study, some patients received anti-depressants, while others got a placebo. Researchers periodically monitored patients' brainwaves. Fifty-two percent of those taking the medication showed improvement, but 38 percent of those taking the placebo said they felt better, too. Jennifer Mathews: What surprised researchers is that the brains of people in the placebo group actually showed the change. Andrew Leuchter: We can't say whether people feel better because their brain function changed, or whether their brain function changed because they felt better. Jennifer Mathews: After the study, the placebo patients were told, they hadn't been on medication. Janis Schonfeld: I said to him, I really think that you should check your records. I really think that I was on medication. And he laughed. Jennifer Mathews: Today, Janis's depression is gone, and researchers have more evidence to back up the power of suggestion. This is Jennifer Mathews reporting.