Neuroscientists have conducted a study showing spinal-cord neural activity when individuals were convinced that their pain would be alleviated by a cream treatment. This activity shows where the Placebo Effect occurs and how gullible volunteer test subjects can be.
Basically what researchers at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany did was tell a bunch of volunteers that they were going to be given a pain-relieving cream while a painful amount of heat was applied to their arms. Instead what the lab coats did was use an inactive cream and reduce the heat to a tolerable level, at least on the first go. In subsequent tests, the heat was set at a painful level and, despite still only receiving the inactive cream, volunteers stated that they felt less pain than without it.
Basically, the volunteers were expecting to feel less pain, just as they did in the tolerable heat test. The very basis of the Placebo Effect. What's of interest to scientists is the activity they were able to observe along the dorsal horn, a section of the spine, during these tests. Observing this activity is leading them to believe that the cells located in that region of the body are connected to deadening pain and that knowledge could allow for better pain management treatment. Except in spineless creeps, of course. [New Scientist via PopSci]