The ritual of medicine and the medicine of ritual

Following up to Transubstantiation, the miracle of ritual.

According to Walter Goldschmidt, in my favorite book,

Social devices are needed to create the emotional cohesion that makes for effective and continued collaboration and to reduce tensions between potentially hostile persons or groups. There are many ways in which the imaginative side of the human psyche is brought to bear on this problem, but I think that they come together in the creation of ritual. I consider ritual to be the second medium of communication and call it the language of sentiment. Rituals are a way to transfer feelings to others.

You’ve probably noticed how some people love ritual, while others are turned off by it. That distinction may have a genetic basis. It seems to for the “ritual of medicine”, because according to Cara Feinberg

The latest findings to emerge from PiPS—a 2012 study showing that genetic variations may explain why only certain people respond to placebo effects—has caught the attention of the Food and Drug Administration.

That study, published last Octoberin PLOS ONE, showed that patients with a certain variation of a gene linked to the release of dopamine were more likely to respond to sham acupuncture than patients with a different variation—findings that could change the way pharmaceutical companies conduct drug trials, says Gunther Winkler, principal of ASPB Consulting, LLC, which advises biotech and pharmaceutical firms. Companies spend millions of dollars and often decades testing drugs; every drug must outperform placebos if it is to be marketed. “If we can identify people who have a low predisposition for placebo response, drug companies can preselect for them,” says Winkler. “This could seriously reduce the size, cost, and duration of clinical trials…bringing cheaper drugs to the market years earlier than before.”

It would be interesting to find out if there’s a correlation between a predisposition for the placebo response and a love of ritual. Or the ability to be hypnotized.

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