The Power of Suggestion – Mind Field S2 (Ep 6)

published on July 9, 2020

This is McGill University in Montreal, CanadaIt boasts an enrollment of morethan 40,000 studentsfrom 150 countriesThe campus employs1,700 professorsteaching 300 programsof study,

And it's proud to be hometo 12 Nobel Prize winnersIt is consideredone of the finestresearch universitiesin the worldRecently, researchers at McGillhave embarked on a studythat uses a brain scanningdevice to read people's mindsand implant thoughtsinto their heads

Or so their subjects thinkNow, the same device may be ableto help kids with ADHD,anxiety,obsessive-compulsive disorder,migraines,Tourette's and moreThis study is notabout technologyThe MRI machine behind memay look impressive,

But it's a shamIt's deactivated,nonfunctioningWhat this studyis really aboutis faith in scienceIt's about the powerof thoughts to healAll you need is the powerof suggestion

A placebo is somethingthat shouldn't work,but due to the powerof suggestionand because of the strengthof our belief, doesBut we don't fully understandyet how they work There could be an evolutionary explanation For example, if a small child hurts themselves,

negative symptoms like pain and crying can be good They keep the child safe and still while signaling adults to come help When help arrives, even if it has no active effect, the child's brain may feel

it has permission to redirect resources away from seeking help and onto actually healing Modern medicine has found a way to harness this power by prescribing placebosBut not all placebos workthe same

For example, a sugar pillwill help your headache moreif given to you by a doctorthan by a poker buddyAnd the colorof the placebo matters, tooA blue pill will workto make you feel calmbetter than a white pill

Because blueis a more calming colorAnd a red pillwill keep you awakeand give you more energythan a blue pill willA capsule will workbetter than a pillbecause it looksmore important

Also, an injection will workbetter than a capsulebecause it seemsmore seriousand potentThere's even evidencethat fake or sham surgerieshave positive effectsIt may be fake medicine,

But the effects can be realAnd not just because the patientfeels better psychologicallyWe're talkingreal physical healing,thanks to the powerof the brain I traveled to Montreal to meet local children struggling

with debilitating behavioral and neurological conditions who would soon find out whether their afflictions could be cured by the power of suggestion-This is Malaya-HiMalaya I'm MichaelNice to meet you

Twelve-year-old Malaya suffers from a common skin ailment, eczema But she has also developed a skin picking disorder, dermatillomaniaYou're starting high schoolwhat, like this year?Early September

Wow, that's a big stepSo, what kind of things,like, worry you,uh, given the symptomsthat you have?Probably the picking-Of your skin?- YeahI don't know, I findit satisfying to pick

It's kind of grossWhy do you thinkyou can't stop?I'm not sureHave you trieddifferent thingsthat'll help you stop?Yeah Like, in my mind,

I'm just like,"Today you won't pickYou are gonna get ridof this eczema"And then after,I'm just like,"Oh, wait My face is,like, bleeding"-Yeah Is it embarrassing?-YeahI like to wear long sleevesbecause my arms are, like,

If they're really bad,I'm gonna try to wearlong sleevesHow are your arms now?It's, like, really badSo, as you can see–And it's all justfrom scratching and picking?Yeah Twelve-year-old Nicholas was troubled

by debilitating migraine headachesSo, what do you wannabe when you grow up?Like, I really,really wanna be,uh, probably like an NHLor an MLB player,one of those two Nicholas's love of sports is unfortunately also

the original source of his sufferingNiceMy first head injury,which was concussion,I hit my headon a soccer postAnd then I hit my headin a game of, uh, hockeyUh, after that, I had headachesevery single day

I was throwing up,having auras–they're like, uh, colorsthat you see beforeyou have a headacheI wasn't able to goto school,and then we wentto the hospitaland into theirconcussion program

Can I see his migraine chart?Oh, sure Yeah We havealmost two years' worthSevere headaches here,severe migraines- Every day?- Every single dayThis has turnedhis world upside down Nathan was diagnosed with ADHD

and impulse control disorderI'd love to hear especiallyabout you, NathanFirst of all,how old are you?-Nine- Nine-How old you are?- How olddo you think I am?-Thirty-That's a very good guess

-I'm 31-OohSo, tell me about, like,before Nathan's diagnosisWhat were kind of the symptomsyou were seeing?Tantrums all the time, um,just an inabilityto reach him,to communicate to him,to connect to him,

That was the main symptomAnd what did youthink of this, Nathan?Were you like, "Why aremy parents not happy?"-Why weren't you?- I don't knowMaybe because I have problemsAnd as far as,like, behavior

Impulsivity,hyperactivity,and you're always,always on the edge,always stressed–what is he gonna touch,where is he gonna go,what is he gonna do These families had tried conventional methods to treat their children with little success

But they were about to find out whether their symptoms could be alleviated using an accessory-assisted placebo, a fake non-functioning MRI machine This groundbreaking study of the power of suggestion and action is the brainchild of pioneering researchers

at McGill University's esteemed Raz LabWe study a whole bunchof different mind-bodyinteraction topics–suggestion,hypnosis, placebo effectsAnytime the mind is regulatingthe body or vice versa,that's a topicthat we study

Now, you saidthe word "placebo"And the devicethat we are usingis a sham scanner Tell me about the scanner What we do with the MRI scanners iswe stack so many differentlayers of deception

In their head, this isa proper neuroscience studydone at the neurologicalinstituteAnd that's why we wearlab coatsThat's why we haveall of thisscientific-lookingequipmentBy the time they've actuallystarted the study,

They've already in their mindbuilt up all these differentlayers of credibilityThey really believe thatwhat we're doing is real What'sinteresting is that children,they're not immune to the powerof neuroenchantment-Neuroenchantment?-Neuroenchantment

-What does that mean?-So, it's this ideathat there is some kindof medical magicThere is immense powerthat is attachedto the cultureof neuroscience whereby neuroscientific props and accessories have more healing power,

more physiological effects,because culturallypeople believe that they doI mean, the same kindof cultural cognitive mechanismsare at playin religious systemsSo, here we are prayingto the gods of neuroscienceand biomedicine

Talk to me aboutthe ethics of lyingThe work we dowith childrenactually does notinvolve lyingWe tell them at firstthat everything that they seeand everything that we doin the lab is a suggestionWe explain to themthat suggestion is a way to tap

Into the powerof their mindWe keep emphasizing evenas they go in the scannerthat it is their mindand their brainthat is doing the healing,that they're basicallyreprogramming their own brain The parents knewthat the scanner was a placebo But for the study to work, the children

had to believe in the procedure So, before they visited the lab, I enlisted a few YouTuber friends to help raise their expectations Hey, guysToday, we havea huge surprise for you

About somethingbrand new in sciencethat could affect you!Oh, I know them Well, today, we learned about this amazing new machie that teaches kids' brais

how to heal super-fas We really hope that you get the chance in person to see how this machine worksWith a little helpfrom the machine,you can focus better,be more confident-And it can even take awaysome headaches-Awesome

Not too many people get the chance to have this awesome experience, but we hear the scientists in Canada—I'm going to have it?-YeahAnd it's very coolSo, what do you hopethe machine

Allows you to dothat makes you better at?Better at concentrating,better at focusingI wanna heal faster,and this will probablybe a good ideaI hope it heals me upwith my concussions

And then I hopemy headaches go away I was about to take part in something remarkable, the very first use of accessory-assisted suggestionon children with these kinds of symptomsMind Field would play an integral role in the study And the results could be

New and significant for science On the day of the first session, several measures were put in place to heighten the children's neuroenchantment-Nathan-Nathan, Nathan A friendly fake nurse,

a walk down a long, impressive hallway and a ten-minute anticipation building wait outside the lab Then it was time for their first scanShall we? While the hypothesis of this study

was grounded in science, this was Dr Veissiere and Jay Olson's first time testing their theory on real children with real disorders, and they didn't know if it would work

You may lie downif you'd like One of my roles was to help build up the children's belief that it would workAs you go into the machine,you'll relax more and moreWould you like to relaxslowly or quickly today?-Uh, I can go in quickly-Oh, wow, nice

Very good Although the MRI scanner was completely deactivated, we needed the kids to believe -it was fully functional – So Jay played a series of realistic sound effects

to signify that the machine was working, while Dr Veissiere planted the suggestion that it would help the patient healYou might noticesome unusual feelings,perhaps a tinglingYour brainis continuing to learn,

And to heal,and to help you findthis constant feelingof confidence If all went well, the placebo effect of the sham brain scanner would convince the children's conscious minds that real neuroscience was at work

Take a deep, deep breath This would allow their subconscious minds to harness the power of their brains to heal themselvesFor people with migraines,it's often in the frontor the back part of the head,

But it could alsobe like a feelinglike outside the headSo I'm not sure what it'sgonna be like for youWe'll find out afterwardsSo, we'll now slide you inCool, it's likea roller coaster

I love roller coastersThe deeper you go in,the more you'll relaxOkay I wanna goall the way deepI know This is because you'realready at level threeYou might noticethat deeper feelingof relaxation

YesYes The scientists at McGill believe that children's brains have always had the ability to control their symptoms

The children just needed to believe it themselvesYeah So the beeps cansometimes make people sneezeas a sign of their relaxingjust very deeplyRight Very wellYou did very,very well, Nathan The children all appeared to enjoy the procedure,

and the researchers and I did our best to reinforce their neuroenchantmentSo when you heardthe first set of beepsand the second set of beeps,did you notice feelingthem in different partsof your body?Well, the first timeI went in the machine,I kind of felt it here

-Okay Good-What level was she taken to today?Level two-Level two-Yeah Level two is great-Uh-hmm-YeahWhen I was in the machine,I felt like I was going,like, backwardsand forwards

Okay That's very goodThat's a very good signYou might have noticedhow you were yawningThat's great For a kid with hyperactivity, Nathan was already appearing calmer But before our young subjects left the lab,

Dr Veissiere bolstered the suggestion that today's session would help them continue their healing processSo I know for surethat you're gonnabe more relaxed,much, much less anxious

I would notbe surprised at allif the scratchingreally diminishedto no scratching at allThe amazing thingabout the brainis that it hasthis fantastic powerto heal itselfBut now what we'vebeen able to do here

With the powerof suggestionis to get your brainto work fasterand betterall the timeSo how do you feel?-Amazing-Oh, niceMind Field provided the Raz Lab

with Octopus by JOY smart watches Leftie rules They were specially programmed to remind the children in between visits that their brain was healing itself Just havingthe watch with you

Will make you feel betterBut it's not the watchor it's not the machinethat's making you feel good,it's your own brain In six weeks,we would return to the lab to check in on their progress

This high-tech contraptionis pretty muchwhat McGill University's firstsham brain scanner looked likeIt was an old discardedhair dryerBut the patientsdidn't know thatIn the original study,56 undergraduate studentswere told that it was ableto reduce pain,

Cause amnesia,influence sexual attraction,and produce variousother impressive effects The lab's new, more modern sham brain scanner shows even more promiseAnd I was invitedto participate in its teston a whole new groupof adult subjects

Okay, so you can come in hereand just grab a seatYesThese college students are fullyawareof what's possible today withneuroscienceCould even they beneuroenchanted enoughto believe in the impossible,

That an MRI scanner could readtheir thoughts?Now, we're lookingat cutting-edge-psychological research-OkayYes It's part of the neuralactivation mapping projectWe're gonna be puttingyou in an MRISo, uh, it's a modified one,it's called the CTMSF MRI

-Okay-So, Combined Transcranial Magnetic StimulationFunctional MagneticResonance Imaging,which is a big word justmeaning it can both read-and influence thoughts-All right OkaySo, you'll be choosinga number from 10 to 99-Okay- And then from looking at your,

Uh, neural activationpatterns,Dr Veissiere herewill try to infer-which number you're thinking-Hmm, interesting-Okay-Okay, great Most adults know the basics about MRIs, so we made sure to cover every detail

In the scanner,the magnetism is a lot lessThat's goodfor documentary team;they can bring a cameraSo, that said,we do have to removethe metal glasses-Got it All this? -After this realistic, but completely unnecessary step, it was time to begin our fake mind-reading experiment

So, we're gonna startthe calibrationSo, try to stayvery still Of course there was actually nothing to calibrate, but we were conditioning our subjects with the expected procedures, sights, and sounds of a real MRI study

Okay Thinkof the number one The subjects were asked to concentrateon the numbers zero to nine while the machine supposedly mapped parts of their brainsThink of the number nine

Dr Veissiere and I remained in character at all times, pretending to analyze the subject's brain activity But the images on our screens were actually old MRI scans from former patients-Is the calibration good?-Looks pretty good to me

With our subject now primed, it was time to convince her that the scanner could identify a number she was thinking of by reading her mind You're gonna choosea number from 10 to 99-Okay-You're gonna hear a beep

Then you'll heara second beepSo you're alwaysmaking your decision-between the two beeps-Okay-Okay?-Got it-So I'll slide you in-Mm-hmmSo hold on to that numberfor just a second

-Okay-Um, uh, they're gonna print-it out and then we'll see-OkayIt was pretty clear– We pretended to give Jay the results of the MRI's analysis, but actually Jay was about to add the subject's number

to the document with a little sleight of handOkay So you can stay lyingdown just for a second-What was the number?-Thirty-oneThirty-one Uh, okay, coolSo if you can sit up hereWhat?

But it's pretty close,but it swapped, huh?Yeah Okay That miss was actually intentional so that the results didn't appear to be perfect, adding to the realismSo, um, are youdoing well?

We'll do– we'll doanother trial with thisThe same thing, okay?Slide you in Michelle thought of a new number Would the scanner get it right this time?-Super clear-It's clearReally good this time

All rightThey think the signal is clear-What was your number?-Twenty-sevenUh, 27, did you say?-Twenty-seven-Oh, okay, great YeahSo, uh,if you can sit up hereYes Oh, wow What?

I don't understandCrazy-So, you chose 27-I didAnd the technicianthought 27 as well-Yeah Okay-Yeah- All right-Oh, wow

How does that feel?Um, I didn't expect itto be so specific-Yeah-Um, a lot of different areasin the braincould be lighting upjust to think ofthe concept of a number What do you know, it worked

Thanks to the wonders of science, or rather the skills of Jay, who in addition to being a neuroscientist happens to be a professional magician on the side While Jay won't reveal the secret of the trick– the mind-reading illusion

is very similar to the mentalist's tricksthat have entertained audiences for over a century The only difference is that when audiences see the stunt performed in a magic setting, they think it's a great trick, not real science

-The machine had 89- That's cool However, in the impressive scientific setting of the Raz Lab, these subjects thought our magic trick was real science- Right here-Oh, my God They didn't realize that the real science

-they were experiencing -It's pretty coolwas the power of suggestionOh, wowA dose of neuroenchantment thispowerful can make for a formidableand effective placebo

I wanna talk aboutthe physical sensation-Sure-What was your experience?It felt like a headachewas coming onIt sort of feltlike, uh, like,-tingling through my head-Up where?Uh, just through this area,

Like, this whole areafelt more like fullI felt like,uh, sort of, uh,a pressure or somethinglike thatIt was, uh,a strange feeling-Like, back here a little bit-In the back?Yeah, a little bitin the back

Somewhere in the backof the head? InterestingOh, okayI wanna hearwhat it felt liketo have your mind readThat was very strangeI think I wasprobably skeptical,

Like, going into it,and then I couldn'tfigure out as Iwas thinking, like, why–how that wouldhappen otherwise,and so, I'm just,I think, in a baffled stateYeah, yeah It was time to clear up

this baffling mysterySo, some deceptionhas been going on todayDr Olsen is, uh,not reading your mindNeither is this machine-This machine is deactivated-How? OkayAll the noiseswere coming from a speaker

It was an illusion?Oh, my GodThat's pretty coolDr Olsen is, uh,not reading your mind-No-The sounds you're hearingare not magnets,it's just from a speakerThe machine in thereis actually deactivated,

-it's not working-Wow, it's like placebo? Yeah, yeahThat's exactly what it isNow imagine tappinginto this powerfor other effects-like healing, for example-RightWowI definitely believe

The placebo effectis alive and well♪There's evidencethat the power of suggestioneven works on animalsA study at North CarolinaState Universityfound that 86% of dogs

Receiving real seizuremedicationhad a reduction in seizuresBut almost as many,a full 79%,experience the same effectfrom just a placebo pillAnd we don't know how a placeboaffects a dog's brain,but it could be that dogshave learned to associate

Vet visitsand medicine from humanswith feeling betterSo, giving them a placebocould help a dog's brainheal itself So firstI'll ask you to lie down againAnd of course,you're total pro at this

For several weeks, the children had undergone sessions in the sham scanner at McGill UniversityThe body continues to relaxas we keep unleashingthis healing energy Each time they were reminded

that through concentration and relaxation, they were helping heal their own brainsHere we go Finally, after six weeks of receiving the placebo sessions, it was time to get a report on the results

Malaya suffered from anxietyand a compulsiveskin picking disorder Had she experienced any level of success?-It's good to see you-It's good to see youGo aheadand take a seatYou're wearing,like, not even–

I thought maybe you'dhave short sleeves onYou've just gota tank top onYour arms look fantasticThey've really gotten betterAnd your face–I mean, all of itWhy do you thinkyou're better?-I'm guessing it's the machine-Yeah, what about it?

Uh, I'm not really surehow it works,but I'm pickinga lot lessSometimes if I see,like, a tiny flake,I'll just leave it thereThat's a prettyshort amount of timefor such a big changein the way you thinkand behave

That's awesomeI don't really feelthe urge to do itas much as I did beforeSo it's a big improvement,I guessYeah, that definitely feelslike and sounds likeyour brainbeing powerful

It's obviouslydoing somethingbecause my arms are betterWell, you seema lot more confidentHolding your head up higherWould you agree,Anne Marie?Yes

She seemsless anxiousShe's morepositive overall-I was hoping for this-It's wonderful to seemore than thisto see her goingYeahWell, good work And as for Nicholas and his migraine headaches

-Hey-HiIt's good to seeyou again, NicholasTell me about the procedureand how you felt afterwardsIt accomplished all the thingsthat I wanted it to,and, I haven't hada migraine at allThat's awesome

And concentration isa big thing that helpedWow And can I seethe symptom charts?-For sure-So these go back to February?Yeah, well,they're really tellingAnd you can see not good,lots going onBut then recently,no migraines at all

-That's incredible-YeahSo, now, you said you wentto the neurologist?They thoughtit was quite remarkableHe hasn't needed any,uh, rescue medication,he hasn't need the preventer,um, and he's nothaving migraines

I'm actually reallyexcited for high school Both Malaya and Nicholas attribute their improvements to the sham scanner They believed it was working for them, and indeed, it did So, how did Nathan, who suffered from ADHD

and impulse control disorder, fare over the last six weeks? Well, I received a home video from Nathan's mother with an update on his progresSo, um, the best part aboutgoing through the treatmentwas, um, just whatit did to our son

We noticed a difference in Nathan immediately after the first sessionAnd do you rememberwhat happened?-I slept-Yeah He sleptSomething he doesn't dovery often during the dayHe slept for two hours

Um, he was refreshedIt was just incredible to seeAnd then what happenedwas the entire summerwe had him off the medicine,and he did greatHe thought about stuffbefore he did it,we were ableto talk things out,

And, uh, it's been funSo overall, we'revery pleased and, you know,we just– we had sucha great experience,so thank you very much The children's results are encouraging,and a powerful sign of howeffective suggestions,

And our willingness to believethem can beIn time, the kids willunderstand how all of the powerwas within them, and not in thescannerThis work istruly cutting-edgeThis hasn'tbeen done beforeCorrectWe also think of this

As a great new wayto do scienceand to collaborate So much more of the public will see what's being doneYes Science isn't justabout publishing a paperthat nobody readsIt's about spreadingthe ideas that you find-Hundred percent-As far as I'm concerned,you're alreadya co-author

In our scientificexperimental paperWow, very coolThank youThe children's improvementswere causedby the placebo effect,and no deceptionwas used to mask thatThe parents knewthe machine was deactivated,

And the childrenwere only toldthat it had the powerto put a suggestionin their brain, a suggestionthat ultimately camefrom themselvesBut surely, the more peoplelearn about placebosand their lackof intrinsic power,

The less effectivethey'll be, right?NoStudies showthat even when subjectslearn that their treatmentwas a placebo,the positive resultsdo not go awayWhat the subjects have learned

About how to heal themselvesremains with themIt was an honor to have beena part of this studyI think this is Mind Field at its best,using our resourcesto help researcherswith their workand helping the public

See how the brain is studiedPlacebos can't fix everything,but these kidsalways had the powerto start healingAll they neededwas the power of suggestion

And as always,thanks for watching

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