Psychology professor to present on placebo effect in Germany

January 11, 2013 | News, Research, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences
By Samantha Watson

When it comes to the medical treatment of patients, individual psychology and personality can have a huge effect on the response to a drug or therapy.


Dr. Andrew Geers, professor of psychology at The University of Toledo, has been invited to a conference in Tübingen, Germany, to talk about this phenomenon, called the placebo effect, in the treatment of patients.

The placebo effect is the psychological effect that patients themselves have on their treatment. Many studies have been performed where patients were given a drug that was actually a sugar pill, or placebo, and they reported feeling better because of the effect their psyche had on the treatment.

Geers said that placebo effects not only alter psychological experience, but also influence physiological and biological pathways in immune, endocrine and gastrointestinal systems.

He has studied this for 10 years and lately has focused his research on the effects a patient’s personality has on the placebo effect, and has found that nearly everyone experiences the placebo effect. However, each person is affected differently; for example, optimists tend to respond to improvements while pessimists focus more on the negative side effects a drug can have.

“A lot of the researchers at this conference are very interested in how their patients respond to different treatments and the placebo component of a treatment, so I think that’s something that they would like to hear more about,” Geers said.

He has attended general psychology conferences in the United States on multiple occasions. He first attended a conference aimed toward the placebo effect last summer in Switzerland, and this will be his first time visiting Germany.

“I know there are people coming from Australia for this conference, people from Canada, the U.S., all over Europe, people from China,” Geers said. “I’m very interested to see the perspectives and the data coming from all these different labs.”

The conference will be held from Wednesday, Jan. 23 to Friday, Jan. 25, and is titled “Progress in Our Understanding of the Psychobiological and Neurobiological Mechanisms of the Placebo and Nocebo Responses.”

Along with Geers, UT doctoral students Stephanie Fowler and Jill Brown will present research at the conference. Fowler will discuss “Placebo Effects in Pain Relief Treatments,” and Brown will present a poster on “Placebo Effects in Sleep Treatments.”

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