According to Dr. Esther M. Sternberg, a renowned medical researcher and author of the new book Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Wellbeing, a space rich in legend and history—the kind antiques and art provide—can help create a much-needed “place of healing” for individuals suffering from stress and even chronic illness.
In an interview with the online antiques newsletter Early Edition, Sternberg says that, from a scientific viewpoint, living with antiques and art could contribute to healing in much the same way places rich in history and legend do.
As she does in her book, Sternberg gives as an example of such a place of healing the sacred pilgrimage site Lourdes. The physiological responses brought about in visitors to sites like Lourdes are instances of the well-known “placebo effect.”
“When you have an expectation something will heal you,” Sternberg says, “there are profound changes in the brain and in the brain chemicals and hormones that have an effect on the immune system that can truly help you heal. It’s not an effect to be dismissed, although when we talk about the placebo effect, it’s usually preceded by the word “just.” But it’s not ‘just the placebo effect.’ The placebo effect can account, some say, for up to 30 to 50 percent of the effect of any medical intervention, whether it’s simply visiting a doctor, taking a pill, or any medical intervention whatsoever. It’s a very powerful effect and part of what produces the placebo effect is expectation. What gives us expectations that certain things will heal? One ingredient is their history and legend. This is a long way of getting at the question of what it is about antiques and art that could contribute to a healing environment—a soothing, calming environment. Certainly legend and history are very important aspects of the answer.”
Dr. Sternberg’s new book, Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Wellbeing, examines recent discoveries in the neurobiology of the senses and explains how aspects of the built environment, through our senses, influence our personal health for better or worse. The book describes how a Walt Disney theme park, a Frank Gehry building, a labyrinth and a garden can trigger or reduce stress, induce anxiety or instill peace of mind. The author also suggests many possibilities for redesigning hospitals, communities and neighborhoods in ways that would promote greater health and healing.
Esther Sternberg is internationally recognized for her discoveries in brain-immune interactions and the effects of the brain’s stress response on health. She is acknowledged by her peers as a major spokesperson for her field, the science of the mind-body interaction.
The full text of the interview with Dr. Sternberg will appear July 20 in the online newsletter Early Edition, published by Armacost Antiques Shows. Subscriptions to the newsletter are available at no charge through www.ArmacostAntiquesShows.com.