Media reports about substances that are supposedly hazardous to health may cause suggestible people to develop symptoms of a disease even though there is no objective reason for doing so.
This is the conclusion of a study of the phenomenon known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Those affected report experiencing certain symptoms on exposure to electromagnetic waves, such as those emitted by cell phones, and these take the form of physical reactions. With the help of magnetic resonance imaging, it has been demonstrated that the regions of the brain responsible for pain processing are active in such cases."Despite this, there is a considerable body of evidence that electromagnetic hypersensitivity might actually be the result of a so-called nocebo effect," explained Dr. Michael Witthöft of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). "The mere anticipation of possible injury may actually trigger pain or disorders. This is the opposite of the analgesic effects we know can be associated with exposure to placebos." The new study illustrates how media reports about health risks may trigger or amplify nocebo effects in some people.
Petra Giegerich | idw
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