My column on SEEDMAGAZINE.COM today discusses recent research on acupuncture:
The science behind acupuncture is dubious. It’s difficult to properly control an acupuncture study because its practitioners–and those receiving treatment–are heavily invested in the results. In a Norwegian study of acupuncture as treatment for hot flashes during menopause, 80 out of 535 volunteers dropped out because they were randomly assigned to the “no treatment” group. As Euan Lawson, a general practitioner in Cumbria, UK, explained in his analysis of the research, acupuncture is quite popular in Norway, with nearly a third of the population having received the treatment at some point in their lifetimes. With this level of popular acceptance of acupuncture, it’s no wonder that a small apparent benefit was found: The women who received acupuncture reported experiencing slightly fewer hot flashes than those who remained in the randomly assigned “self-treatment” group. This result is easily explained as a placebo effect: The women and their practitioners both want the treatment to work and believe it will, so therefore it does, albeit only very slightly.
A better way to do acupuncture research is to use a sham acupuncture control group that leads both patients and practitioners to believe they are getting real acupuncture. Accordingly, researchers have designed “needles” that appear even to practitioners to be real but don’t puncture the skin. This is the same way careful drug trials are done: Patients and physicians don’t know whether they receive the experimental drug, an alternative drug, or a placebo.
You can read the rest here.
Also, here are my picks for neuroscience and psychology for ResearchBlogging.org. If your post is featured, make sure you click through: there’s a new icon you can display to show off the fact that your post was selected!
- Steve Genco offers a compelling critique of fMRI and the many ways it can be abused.
- On the other hand, Kevin Mitchell discusses some amazing new technology that allows us not only to see brain activity, but also how different parts of the brain interact.
- On the other other hand, dlPFC discusses some research that effectively uses regular old fMRI to show why we have so much trouble multitasking, and even suggests how we might be able to learn to multitask better.
- Finally, a completely unrelated — but fantastic — post about the amazing nose of the star-nosed mole.