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April 24, 2010, 2:30 PM

Understanding the Placebo Effect

Participants: Robert Ader, Rob DeRubeis (moderator), John Kelley, Richard Kradin, Rosamond Rhodes

This roundtable will examine observations made since ancient times of the effectiveness of placebo in a variety of medical conditions from a multidisciplinary perspective. Current research attempting to unravel the mechanisms of the effect and the statistics of its efficacy will be discussed, as well as historical and ethical considerations.

Robert Ader is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is a past president of the American Psychosomatic Society, the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, and the Founding president of the PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society. He was the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, and the Editor of Psychoneuroimmunology, prophetically described as the signature volume of a new field of interdisciplinary research.

Rob DeRubeis is the Samuel H. Preston Term Chair in the Social Sciences and Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He has served terms as Director of Penn's Doctoral Training Program in Clinical Psychology, and as Associate Dean for the Social Sciences in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences. DeRubeis has authored or co-authored more than 90 articles and book chapters on topics that center on the treatment of depression. He has received the Academy of Cognitive Therapy's Aaron T. Beck Award for his contributions to research on cognitive therapy, as well as the Aaron T. Award from the Institute for Cognitive Studies. His empirical research comparing the benefits of cognitive therapy and medications for severe depression, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry and Archives of General Psychiatry, has been the subject of media reports in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. His recent article in The Journal of the American Medical Association, in which he reported that antidepressant medications confer little benefit relative to placebo in patients with mild or moderate forms of depression, has been covered in The New York Times.

John Kelley is Assistant Professor of Psychology and Statistics at Endicott College, Instructor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, and a licensed clinical psychologist in the Psychiatry Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Kelley has served as a co-investigator or consultant on eight National Institutes of Health grants. His research interests include investigating the placebo effect in medical and psychiatric disorders, and understanding how the doctor-patient relationship improves clinical outcomes in medicine and psychiatry.

Richard Kradin is a medical internist and psychoanalyst at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Associate Professor at Harvard University. He has served as Research Director for the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston. The recipient of the Upjohn Prize for Cancer Research and the Gradiva Prize in psychoanalysis, Dr. Kradin has authored over 200 articles in the peer reviewed literature, as well as four textbooks, including The Placebo Response and the Power of Unconscious Healing. This text addresses the complex history of the placebo response, and proposes a role for it as an innate pathway of salutogenesis within the central nervous system. It is Dr. Kradin's thesis that adopting a balanced, realistic understanding of the placebo response can promote salutary outcomes in a wide variety of therapeutic interventions.

Rosamond Rhodes is Professor of Medical Education and Director of Bioethics Education at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Professor of Philosophy at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and Professor of Bioethics and Associate Director of the Union-Mount Sinai Bioethics Program. She writes on a broad array of issues in bioethics and has published more than 160 papers and chapters. She is coeditor of The Blackwell Guide to Medical Ethics, Medicine and Social Justice: Essays on the Distribution of Health Care, and Physician Assisted Suicide: Expanding the Debate.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


Discussion Board

This forum allows for an ongoing discussion of the above Philoctetes event. You may use this space to share your thoughts or to pose questions for panelists. An attempt will be made to address questions during the live event or as part of a continued online dialogue.
Thomas McDonald says:
This sounds very interesting as I know a few people personally who feel strongly that their antidepressant medication makes a difference.

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