Segments in this Video

The Power of the Placebo: Introduction (01:01)


This segment orients viewers to the topic of placebos and their effect.

Manchester Velodrome (02:11)

Dr. Chris Beedie gathers top cyclists to see if he can increase their speed with the use of legal performance enhancing supplements. Cyclists provide baseline time trials.

Cornstarch Pills (02:11)

Cyclists receive performance enhancing supplements before performing a second race. Beedie explains the hidden experiment.

Quicker Times (02:48)

Cyclists describe what the second race felt like. Beedie compares their times; the cyclists learn the pill was a placebo. Beedie found a placebo effect in all of his studies.

Placebo Skepticism (02:28)

Studies show that there may be more to placebos than traditionally thought. Dr. David Kallmes used cement to alleviate back pain; he wants to tests this procedure against a fake operation.

Vertebral Fracture (02:42)

Bonnie Anderson enrolls in Kallmes' trial. She undergoes an operation without knowing if it is the placebo procedure.

Procedure Benefits (02:50)

Anderson felt immediately better after the procedure; she was in the placebo group. Anderson compares the procedure to her previous operation. Kallmes' discusses the trial study results.

Oxygen Placebo (03:49)

Fabrizio Benedetti's lab is at the top of a mountain in the Italian Alps. He conducts an experiment to see what happens when people expect to get extra oxygen, but do not actually get it.

Physiological Changes (02:33)

Benedetti discusses the reduction of PGE2 when given oxygen. His research reveals a reduction in PGE2 when given fake oxygen.

Monitoring Changes (03:55)

Prof. Tor Wager performs the thermal pain test on Jake while scanning his brain.

How Does Placebo Change Body Chemicals? (02:49)

Jake learns the true nature of the experiment. Scans reveal that the brain releases opioids with a placebo. Wager explains why drugs and placebos work.

Dopamine (02:09)

Scientists want to know what a sugar pill can do. Paul Patterson suffers from Parkinson's disease; he takes dopamine to control symptoms. Learn the purposes of dopamine.

Parkinson's Placebo Experiment (02:15)

Prof. Jon Stoessl tests Parkinson's medication against a placebo; Patterson participates in the trial. Patterson reflects on the results.

Parkinson's Brain Scans (02:20)

The scans of patients receiving a placebo help explain how Patterson's symptoms faded.

Believing a Placebo is Real (02:46)

Wager discusses the importance of expectations; watch him climb a mountain. Thoughts and expectations trigger chemical reactions that change our bodies.

Making the Most of a Placebo (02:21)

Studies reveal the size, shape, color, and cost of a medication impacts its affects. Harvard experts want to harness the placebo affect's power without lying.

Challenging Placebo Assumptions (02:19)

Ted Kaptchuk conducts an experiment on the effects of a placebo when patients know that is what they are receiving. Linda Bonanno shares her experience.

IBS Experiment (02:35)

Patients found that their symptoms returned once the placebo pills were gone. Kaptchuk shares his theory on why the placebo pills worked.

Doctor/Patient Relationship (03:55)

Kaptchuk creates an acupuncture experiment to find out whether or not a doctor can produce a placebo effect.

Placebo Review (01:30)

Hear final thoughts on further placebo considerations. Experts discuss placebo's effectiveness and future challenges.

Credits: The Power of the Placebo (00:43)

Credits: The Power of the Placebo

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

The Power of the Placebo

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $300.00
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $450.00
3-Year Streaming Price: $300.00



Placebos come in all shapes and sizes and have been shown to help treat pain, depression, and alleviate some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In this film, Horizon meets the scientists who are trying to find out why they work. From the man who performed fake operations to alleviate back pain to the scientist studying the effect of fake oxygen on physical performance, placebos have been shown to cause real and measurable physiological changes. A brain scan reveals that a placebo can encourage our bodies to release the naturally occurring pain killers in our brains. Tests show that the shape, size, and even the color of a placebo can all have an impact on its effectiveness. So what happens if we know it’s a placebo? Surprisingly, it still seems to work. A BBC Production.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: EDP60495

ISBN: 978-1-60057-539-6

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.