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August 19th, 2010
12:11 PM ET

TEDMED: Mixing magic and placebos

Sometimes confidence in modern medicine is so strong that even a fake intervention, or some element of treatment that doesn't have medical properties itself can make you feel better. This is called the placebo effect.

Studies have found that the price, branding, and color of drugs may affect how people respond to them. Moreover, sham needles are more effective than fake pills in relieving persistent arm pain, this 2006 study found.

There's just something about needles piercing skin that seems all too real. In the above, magician Eric Mead explores the placebo effect as it relates to magic. He references some of this research and then demonstrates an illusion involving running a long hat pin through the skin of his own arm.

Even if you realize that he is a magician and the point of this demonstration is to show how believable these things can be, you may still feel queasy after seeing this. Proceed with caution if you easily get squeamish about blood.

TEDMED is an annual event that brings together dozens of luminaries from a variety of fields to "demonstrate the intersection and connections between all things medical and health care related: from personal health to public health, devices to design and Hollywood to the hospital."  TEDMED 2010 will take place from October 26 to 29 in San Diego, California.

Editor's note: Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be attending TEDMED in October and his coverage of the conference will be featured in "Sanjay Gupta, M.D."


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.