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Vol. LVII, No. 21
October 21, 2005

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Lecture on 'Spirituality and Health,' Oct. 28 in Masur

Human beings have long been intrigued by the possible connections between spiritual or religious practices and physical health. In today's world, this can also be a highly controversial topic. Until recently, such a discussion would also have been considered outside of the realm of medical practice and evaluation. This has begun to change, however, as you will have an opportunity to hear from Dr. Anne Harrington. She will be the next speaker for the Distinguished Lectures in the Science of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a series hosted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Her talk, titled, "Is Spirituality Good for Your Health? Historical Reflections on an Emerging Research Enterprise," will take place on Friday, Oct. 28 at 11 a.m. in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10.


Harrington, professor of the history of science at Harvard University, argues that we find ourselves in a historically unique moment in which medical researchers design double-blind trials of prayer, ministers talk about the brain and the immune system from the pulpit, monks meditate inside brain-imaging machines and studies of the placebo effect and positive attitude frame the discussion about the science of "miracle" healings. In this eighth Distinguished Lecture presented by NCCAM, Harrington will offer an historical perspective on these varied developments, reflect on how they relate to one another and invite critical scrutiny of the different kinds of challenges — intellectual, ethical, political — raised by this research.

Harrington specializes in the history of psychiatry, neuroscience and other mind sciences. She received her Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Oxford in 1985 and has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in London and at the University of Freiberg in Germany. In addition to her teaching position as Loeb Harvard College professor at Harvard University, she is also visiting professor of medical history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She was co-director for 6 years of the Harvard University Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative and a member for 6 years of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Mind-Body Interactions, where she worked on such topics as placebo effects, trance phenomena, group therapy for breast cancer and the effects of meditation on emotional health in the workplace.

In addition to writing more than 50 articles and book chapters, she has published two books — Medicine, Mind, and the Double Brain (1987) and Reenchanted Science (1996) — and has edited five other books including The Placebo Effect (1997). Her newest book, Stories Under the Skin: American Mind-Body Medicine and Its Histories, is under contract with W.W. Norton and will be published soon.

NCCAM invites all to attend the lecture. It will also be webcast on For reasonable accommodation, contact Karen Davison at (301) 348-1606, or the Federal Relay at 1-800-877-8339.

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