How The Brain Powers Placebos, False Memories And Healing

How The Brain Powers Placebos, False Memories And Healing

Erik Vance didn’t go to a doctor until he was 18; he grew up in California in a family that practiced Christian Science. “For the first half of my life, I never questioned the power of God to heal me,” Vance writes in his new book, Suggestible You: Placebos, False Memories, Hypnosis, and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain.

As a young man, Vance left the faith behind, but as he became a science journalist he didn’t stop thinking about how people’s beliefs and expectations affect their health, whether it’s with placebo pills, mystical practices or treatments like acupuncture. The answer, he found, is in our brains.

Erik and I chatted about the book while attending a recent meeting of the National Association of Science Writers. Here are highlights of our conversation, edited for length and clarity. To read more from Nancy Shute, click here.