Can Dyslexia Be Cured by the Placebo Effect?

Myself and a reader going under the name of Tom, are having a discussion on the Dore Treatment. Tom is very much against Dore and has described it as a “con”. He has also accused me of promoting Dore for money and that I am lying about my treatment and subsequent improvement. You can read all this on iPhone Plays Guitar or via the Myomancy Forum.

One of the interesting points that has arisen out of this discussion is the idea that any improvement in my dyslexia has been caused by the placebo effect.

The placebo effect is defined as “…occur[ing] when a patient’s symptoms are altered in some way (i.e., alleviated or exacerbated) by an otherwise inert treatment, due to the individual expecting or believing that it will work. “. The two important elements are that the patient receives a totally inert treatment and that the patient’s symptoms really change.

The placebo effect is normally found in relation to physical medical problems ranging from common colds to cancer. Alternative medical treatments such as homeopathy and faith healing rely on the placebo effect for most of their benefits. It is also common practice in drug trials to give half the patients the real drug to be tested and the other half a sugar pill placebo. It is then possible to compare the results from the real drug to the placebo and work out how much more effective the real drug is. These drug trails regularly show 20%-30% of people on the placebo show an improvement of symptoms. In some cases, such as drugs designed to control pain, up to 75% of people on the placebo reported less pain. The placebo effect is very real and may be far more important to how effective drugs are than the big pharmaceutical companies would like you to know.

It is important to note that there is no evidence that the placebo effect actually cures anything. They can make you feel better by reducing pain or other symptoms and this can have a knock-on effect. A patient with less pain may be more positive and more active and this can help the bodies natural healing process. Another vital aspect of the placebo effect is that it wears off. A placebo only works because the patient believes it is going to work. After they have been taking a placebo for sometime the patient will begin to question why their illness hasn’t been cured. Once this loss of faith occurs the placebo loses its symptom reducing effects.

To apply this to dyslexia we have to identify the ‘disease’ and the ‘symptoms’. If the Dore Treatment is a placebo, the symptoms should reduces in intensity for a while but then return because the underlying problem or ‘disease’ still remains. Most dyslexia experts believe that dyslexia, the ‘disease’, is caused by a fundamental difference in the brain that cannot be changed. The ‘symptoms’ of this disease are reading problems, poor spelling, poor handwriting and poor short-term memory. Because the ‘disease’ is an unchangeable flaw, these symptoms can only be ameliorated. If a placebo works on dyslexia then we would expect one or more of those symptoms to show improvement and then return to its previous levels once the effect is lost.

A patient receiving a dyslexia treatment placebo might well do better in a spelling test than before because they believe they are being cured. This success would boast their confidence, helping them to learn new words and to make further progress in the next test. But if dyslexia is a lifelong condition that can only be ameliorated then this cycle of progress can only continue until the limits on the patient’s ability, placed on them by the underlying ‘disease’, are reached. Once this limit is reached the patient would lose faith in the placebo, the placebo effect would stop working, levels of confidence would drop and most of the improvements seen would disappear.

This does not appear to be the case. My own, other people’s anecdotal evidence, and research by Dore shows that the improvements gained whilst on the treatment remain and further improvements are seen after the treatment has stopped. Though the treatment has certainly not worked for some, no one has reported seeing significant improvements and then losing them once treatment stops.

This persistence of improvement is the clear sign that the Dore treatment is not working through a placebo effect but is making a permanent change in the brain.

None of this proves the underlying hypothesis of the Dore treatment that dyslexia is caused by an under-developed cerebellum or that the Dore treatment does anything but boast the patient’s confidence. But because the effects of the treatment are permanent it cannot be described as a placebo effect.

This entry was posted in Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to "Can Dyslexia Be Cured by the Placebo Effect?"

What are your personal experiences with ADD / ADHD, autism or dyslexia?