NKT Tharpaland: The Windfarm Study – A Nocebo Effect?

In a recent post, NKT monks beat retreat over wind farm – from Tharpaland to Schloss Sommerswalde, the selling of Tharpaland and a study was discussed that claimed rather heavy negative effects of the infrasound from wind turbines and wind farms in general. The study and the claims of the New Kadampa Tradition appeared to be quite strange and raised my and others’ eyebrows.

At that time I assumed the researcher who did the study for the New Kadampa Tradition might not have taken into consideration “the issue of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, and the dishonest and duplicity mode of the New Kadampa Tradition”.

Now a new research was published by Psychologist Keith J. Petrie and his colleagues of the Medical Highschool in Auckland in the journal Health Psychology. The reason for the symptoms reported in the context of wind turbines they demonstrated to be based on the Nocebo Effect. An impressive example of this Nocebo Effect has been given by Derek Adams who almost killed himself with 29 sugar pills. (For the Derek Adams story see this summery or The New Scientist: The new witch doctors: How belief can kill).

The team of Keith J. Petrie write in the abstract of their research, Can Expectations Produce Symptoms From Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbines?:

The development of new wind farms in many parts of the world has been thwarted by public concern that subaudible sound (infrasound) generated by wind turbines causes adverse health effects. Although the scientific evidence does not support a direct pathophysiological link between infrasound and health complaints, there is a body of lay information suggesting a link between infrasound exposure and health effects. This study tested the potential for such information to create symptom expectations, thereby providing a possible pathway for symptom reporting. Method: A sham-controlled double-blind provocation study, in which participants were exposed to 10 min of infrasound and 10 min of sham infrasound, was conducted. Fifty-four participants were randomized to high- or low-expectancy groups and presented audiovisual information, integrating material from the Internet, designed to invoke either high or low expectations that exposure to infrasound causes specified symptoms. Results: High-expectancy participants reported significant increases, from preexposure assessment, in the number and intensity of symptoms experienced during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound. There were no symptomatic changes in the low-expectancy group. Conclusions: Healthy volunteers, when given information about the expected physiological effect of infrasound, reported symptoms that aligned with that information, during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound. Symptom expectations were created by viewing information readily available on the Internet, indicating the potential for symptom expectations to be created outside of the laboratory, in real world settings. Results suggest psychological expectations could explain the link between wind turbine exposure and health complaints.

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