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  • ## This Video Will Hurt

  • Please, put on your headphones -- I promise that there won't be any loud sounds, but this

  • video is going to hurt. There's a study about hypersounds and how they cause headaches:

  • these sounds are too high-pitched to hear -- like the one added to this video, playing

  • right now -- but cause headaches they still do.

  • The hypersound in your headphones is pressing on your inner ear, stressing the nerves leading

  • to your brain where, if the headache hasn't started already, it soon will as exposure

  • causes headaches after only ten seconds.

  • Oh my.

  • Can you feel it? That pressure on your ears spreading to your now throbbing brain?

  • Because...

  • ...you shouldn't: the study is made up and there's no hypersound in the audio, but still

  • some of you will have began to feel a headache. Why? The nocebo effect.

  • A nocebo is a harmless thing -- like a video with nonexistent hypersounds -- that causes

  • harm -- like a headache -- because you *believe* it's harmful. That sounds like Voodoo, but

  • there's science behind the nocebo effect, which is more than an irritating parlor trick,

  • it causes real problems like in medicine.

  • When testing a new drug doctors get a group of sick people give half of them the new drug

  • and give the other have a fake pill that does nothing -- but which they're told is real.

  • This is how science finds the stuff that works amongst the junk that doesn't.

  • But new drugs have side effects and sometimes patients drop out of the experiment because

  • of them. No surprise there.

  • But some people on the fake *also* drop out from the side effects. Side effects they've

  • gotten from a drug they *aren't* taking. But because they *think* they're on the real thing,

  • they've also *thought* themselves into the side effects.

  • Now maybe this is just a case of misattribution: people get headaches and, if they're joined

  • a drug trial that lists headaches in the side effects, it's natural to blame the new drug

  • -- and that certainly happens to some extent.

  • But the nocebo effects is more than just misattribution, it causes real, additional harm that scientists

  • can measure in cruel, cruel experiments -- and this is one of the reasons there not an over

  • abundance of research on nocoboes: approach your friendly neighborhood ethics board with

  • an experiment designed to hurt people and they'll frown on that. But sometimes nocebo

  • experiments do get approved to the benefit of science and humanity, if not the participants.

  • For example, under the right conditions some people who expect a harmless injection will

  • give them a rash will get a rash, but for people who expect nothing to happen, nothing

  • is exactly what happens.

  • And fake pills can be additive: take test subjects off pills they believe are addictive

  • and some will experience nocebic withdrawal symptoms -- like pain and fatigue -- from

  • the pills that they could never have been addicted to in the first place.

  • Another experiment gave people harmless injections, told half of them to just sit there and told

  • the other half that their pain would increase for the next thirty minutes -- which it did.

  • But in this situation there is a drug that can block the nocebo effect and those who

  • were told the injection would hurt, but were also secretly given the nocebo-blocking drug

  • did *not* report an increase in pain -- showing that the nocebo effect is a real, physical

  • process.

  • In all these nocebo experiments it's the belief in harm that matters. If someone dressed as

  • a voodoo witch doctor popped up and hexed you with a curse of great pain -- no effect.

  • But, in a room with a real doctor and his clipboard and a big science machine and a

  • needle in your arm, you'll take his words rather more seriously.

  • Which is why doctors say: "This won't hurt a bit" rather than "Oh this? It's going to

  • hurt. Like *a lot*." -- which, by the way, was a real experiment done on women undergoing

  • labor during spinal injections. Guess how that turned out?

  • But nocebos don't end here. While illnesses like the flu, spread from contact with disgusting,

  • germ-infected humans and the things they touch with their, disgusting germy hands -- a nocebo

  • spreads from mind to mind, no contact required.

  • A notable example happened in a Tennessee high school. One teacher reported a strange

  • smell in her classroom and developed symptoms of headache nausea, and difficulty breathing.

  • These symptoms spread to some of her students and from them to others in the school. Almost

  • two hundred people ended up at the local hospital but all medical tests came back with nothing,

  • nor was anything harmful found at the school.

  • This was a nocebo -- the belief that the air was making them sick -- spread mind to mind.

  • Everyone who got sick heard about the symptoms from someone else. When this happens, it's

  • called mass psychogenic illness.

  • The treatment in these cases is to separate those with symptoms from the rest and reassure

  • the ill that yes, their symptoms are real, but no they haven't been exposed to anything

  • toxic, and yes people are getting better quickly:

  • The last is one of the indicators that separates a real poison gas leak or biological weapon

  • from mass psychogenic illness. But the final factor, number of cases increasing with greater

  • media coverage, can lead to this kind of thing spreading far and wide.

  • Take, electrosensitives: people who get nausea (among other things) from exposure to parts

  • of the electromagnetic spectrum, notably WiFi the density of which is increasing over time,

  • forcing particularly bad sufferers to retreat to places like the creepy-sounding radio science

  • zone in, where else, West Virginia.

  • But put electrosensitives in a room with a WiFi router and they can't actually tell via

  • their symptoms if it's on or off. Instead their symptoms track with being told if it's

  • on or off.

  • And if you make a group of people without electrosensitivity watch a news report on

  • how Wifi makes you ill while another group watches something uninformative and afterward

  • expose both groups to a fake Wifi signal only some of those who watched the news report

  • feel sick.

  • There's a similar phenomenon called 'wind farm disease' with similar side effects, which

  • turns up where it's been talked about on the local news, but not in other places in the

  • same country with the same wind farms where it isn't.

  • All this makes it too easy to mock people for thinking they're getting sick from WiFi

  • or Wind farms or *Wind farms with WiFi* -- but it's important to realize they're not crazy,

  • the side effects are real, they're just wrong about the source: all evidence points to the

  • belief in electrosensitivy as the cause of electrosensitivity.

  • Which means the news reports talking about these illnesses are spreading a kind of mind

  • virus. And while these are exotic examples, there is also evidence that some allergies

  • and asthma cases are nocebic and thus able to be spread in the same way.

  • To be clear: if someone's having an asthma attack, that's not the time to tell them you

  • know they're being a drama llama because you watched an Internet video about the nocebo

  • effect. *They're really having an asthma attack* and they *really* need something to make it

  • stop and that's *really* not you showing off your knowledge.

  • Harmful things aren't harmful just because we believe they are -- the right dose of arsenic

  • will kill you as surely as an anvil to the head, no matter your insistence otherwise.

  • But the nocebo effect does show that our beliefs about otherwise harmless things can make them

  • harmful.

  • Which means that our voodoo doctor's hex from before really could work, but only if you

  • were foolish enough to believe him.

## This Video Will Hurt

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B1 wifi drug harmful hurt headache harmless

This Video Will Hurt

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    VoiceTube posted on 2014/02/17
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