Suggestion Influences Asthma Response

Published Online: Sunday, February 1, 2004

    A Canadian research team has found that the power of suggestion has a strong influence on some asthma patients. A study of 17 asthmatics showed that some participants experienced a temporary decline in lung function after breathing in a solution that they were told would make breathing more difficult. In fact, however, it was ordinary saline solution.

    Using an ?index of suggestibility,? the researchers identified 8 people with asthma who were very suggestible, compared with 9 people who were resistant to suggestion. Both groups inhaled a solution that they were informed would tighten their airways and make them wheeze. Later on, the subjects again inhaled the saline solution, but this time they were told that they were taking an experimental asthma drug that would open their airways and help their breathing. Also, the participants breathed in the saline solution without being given any suggestions.

    In the first experiment, 5 of the 8 highly suggestible subjects experienced a temporary decline in lung function, compared with 1 of the suggestion-resistant people. In the second experiment, just 1 of the highly suggestible participants and none of the resistant ones underwent a change in lung capacity. (The findings were published recently in Psychosomatic Medicine.)

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