Ancient Brain, Modern World: Unpacking the Mind-Body Connection

Tamara Claunch
5 min readApr 13, 2021
Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Over the past five years, I have seen more commercials for Prevagen than I can count. You know, it’s the pill that is touted as the “number one pharmacist recommended memory support”. The commercials are filled with “real customers” who have gotten “real results” and it all looks pretty convincing if one can ignore the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen.

Every time I see ads for Prevagen, I get mad. Not blisteringly angry, but really irritated.

As a specialist in dementia risk reduction, I know the science behind their claims is shoddy. A quick online search reveals years of complaints and lawsuits. Last month, in fact, the Food and Drug Administration forced Prevagen to agree to stop marketing the supplement with claims that it can improve memory. It has not been clinically proven to do anything.

And this is the crux of my deep dislike of Prevagen: it oversimplifies a complex, multi-factorial condition (dementia) and tells people that if they just take this pill, their memory will be better. That’s it. No nutrition. No exercise. No stress management. People can just keep living their lives exactly the way they are and just by taking this supplement derived from jellyfish, have a strong and sharp mind. It’s a total crock.

Or is it?

How we think changes the way our body feels and functions; how our body feels and functions changes the way we think. Physical symptoms result from our mental state, and vice versa. This is the essence of the mind-body connection. We experience the power of the mind-body connection all the time, without really even noticing it.

Scientists are just beginning to understand what ancient cultures have known for millennia: the power of the mind-body connection is huge. In one study from 2018, people living with intense, chronic pain were given a placebo and told it was strong pain medication. About half of the people who took the placebo reported a drastic reduction in pain — up to 30 percent. Think about that: they took a sugar pill and it reduced their pain far beyond what opioid-based pain relievers can do…just because they believed it was a real drug.

Or how about another study in which researchers discovered that people with…