For a historically mistrusted drink, coffee is proving to be a healthy addiction. Scientific findings in support of coffee’s nutritional attributes have been arriving at a steady drip since the 1980s, when Norwegian researchers reported that coffee seemed to fend off liver disease. Since then, the dark brown beverage has shown value against liver cancer, too, as well as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Coffee even appears to protect against depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
It’s time for a shake-up. There is a new way to stimulate a brain using tiny vibrating particles, and it was inspired by the proteins that let us taste spicy foods.
The technique is a twist on deep brain stimulation, which involves sticking electrodes into the brain to deliver rapid pulses of weak current. Such stimulation has shown promise for treating a range of disorders including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. But the need to open up someone’s head to implant electrodes has made it a less than appealing treatment option.
In a recent study, an “expensive” salt solution was shown to to be significantly more effective at managing the symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease than an “inexpensive” one. The salt solutions were identical placebos.
Placebo effects mostly operate on highly subjective symptoms like pain, nausea, mental performance (i.e. coordination, mental acuity, alertness, mood etc). It also has some effect in temporarily boosting immunity, as it has long been determined that stress influences it. And when the patients have been told that they are on placebos, the effect rapidly reverses.