Resource June 19, 2018

Meet the Journalist: Nsikan Akpan

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Marcus Sapere practices Reiki massage on a client in his office in Alameda, California. Reiki is based on the idea that sickness is caused by the changes in energy and that a therapist can manipulate that energy with his hands and mind. Image by Erika Larsen.
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Image by Erika Larsen. Alameda, California, 2016.Think about the last time you took an aspirin. That...

Curandero Placido Arturo, who has practiced for 40 years, uses herbs and spiritual blessings at mountaintop altars to treat everything, from toothaches to infertility. Image by Ben Herrera. Mexico, 2017.
Curandero Placido Arturo, who has practiced for 40 years, uses herbs and spiritual blessings at mountaintop altars to treat everything, from toothaches to infertility. Image by Ben Herrera. Mexico, 2017.

Alternative healing is used around the world, from acupuncture to laying of hands to yoga. How do these alternative remedies work to heal the body and the brain?

As part of the PBS NewsHour series ScienceScope, producer Nsikan Akpan and science writer Erik Vance ventured to Huautla de Jimenez, Mexico, to dive into the neuroscience of expectation.

Curanderos, or traditional healers, have existed in this town of 36,000 since before the Spanish arrived. They're best known for introducing the West to psychedelic mushrooms in the 1950s. But they mainly rely on a blend of Christian symbols and indigenous healing practices to treat illness.

The piece explores how curanderos use storytelling to pull someone out of their everyday and force their brains to start treating their bodies. The journalists also visited a lab at the University of Maryland to expose how this phenomenon manifests in the brain.

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