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Desire to Cough Is in the Mind: Study

Update Date: Jun 20, 2012 02:15 PM EDT

A new study claims that the desire to cough can be reduced psychologically since the irritation could be not just a reflex action.

For the study, researchers from the University of Queensland, Australia, made all research participants breathe in a small amount of capsaicin- a throat irritant.

Prior to taking capsaicin, the participants were given some inert gases that did not impact their urge to cough. However, while some of the participants were told that the gas would not be of any help, others were told that they were given liodcaine- a local anesthetic.

The test results revealed that people who were told that they had taken the local anesthetic had 45 percent lesser urge to cough when compared to others.

The study proves that the urge to cough can be controlled by certain sophisticated thought centers in the brain.

"It's as if the brain has some occasion to control when to cough or not," Professor Omer Van den Bergh, from the University of Leuven in Belgium, was quoted as saying by Mail Online.

There are other studies that suggest that the brain responds to placebos. People suffering from conditions like depression to urinary problems are known to have responded to placebos. Sometimes, the influence can be as effective as a counseling session or anti-depressant medicines.

Stuart Mazzone, the lead researcher is however surprised at the effectiveness of placebo in reducing the desire to cough. He says, generally, a placebo is effective around 25 to 30 percent in pain reduction.

"I was a little surprised by the magnitude of the response. It was very large," Mazzone said.

Mazzone's study confirms earlier findings which suggest that placebos can help reduce coughing as much as anti-cough medicines can, says Ronald Eccles, the director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University in the U.K.

"I think the key point is that if patients believe in a cough treatment then it does work for them," he said according to Mail Online.

"It's difficult to know why that is' that cough responds so well to placebo," said Mazzone.

He suggested that it could be because the cough reflex in people is less hard-wired than the pain reflex, since the latter is much more significant for survival.

Cough researchers are actively working on the idea that a person can get relief from a cough if only the brain can be made to believe that a substance can soothe the cough.

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