Cheap? Yes. Fake? Not at all. It’s another genetic study on the placebo effect and it highlights the fact that our brains are not static input-out machines that were built from scratch using a genetic blueprint. Rather, what we expect and believe matters … a lot.
How does it work? Nobody knows for sure, but dopamine has been implicated in synaptic mechanisms that are used to register the fulfillment or violation of expectations. For example, if you believe that a certain something will happen … and something better happens, your brain produces a burst of dopamine. If something worse happens, then you get a drop in dopamine. Your expectations and beliefs influence your dopamine levels.
Apparently, some of us metabolize dopamine faster vs. slower which may be related to a weaker vs. stronger placebo response. For example, my rs4680 GG fast dopamine metabolizing genotype says, the “medicine in my mind” is not very strong. But, on the other hand, I do watch A LOT of Grey’s Anatomy.