FAQ about Expanded Training Program

Why is MIWI offering this expanded training focused on placebo effects? 

The placebo effect is a clinically-significant, quintessential biopsychosocial phenomenon that sits at the intersection of mental and physical health. Response to placebo is most pronounced for health conditions that interface with the nervous system (i.e., self-reported symptoms of fatigue or pain; neurological or cognitive performance; gastrointestinal symptoms, which makes MIWI an ideal training setting for exploring this phenomenon. 

What is this expanded training in placebo effects focused on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD)?

The placebo response is a function of neurocognitive processes, symptoms of ADRD likely impair a person’s ability to form expectations regarding treatment response. Thus, researchers seeking to develop interventions to prevent, delay, or slow the progression of ADRD must contend with two parallel frames of the role of placebos: (1) Placebos as tools to test hypotheses about the clinical effectiveness of interventions (as in double-blind trials of medications to prevent ADRD), and (2) Placebos as “tools of the healing arts” in their own right, which can also be used to identify means to enhance the effectiveness of interventions and to identify mechanisms underlying clinical outcomes. ADRD is an ideal “case study” for such training.

How does ADRD relate to MIWI’s focus on minority health and health disparities?

An estimated 40% of the risk of ADRD is a function of modifiable risk factors including health behaviors, social isolation, and cardiometabolic disease. There are substantial disparities in ADRD risk and experts have noted “Interventions are likely to have the biggest impact on those who are disproportionately affected by dementia risk factors... including Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.” This means that efforts to impact the modifiable determinants of ADRD risk will require scientists who are able to engage with transdisciplinary and integrative approaches to address the complex ways that biological, psychosocial and environmental factors interact in the development of cognitive decline, with particular attention to how these factors operate in minority and disadvantaged populations. As an interdisciplinary training program centered on the intersection of mental and physical health as it relates to health disparities, the Michigan Integrative Well-Being and Inequality (MIWI) Training Program is an ideal setting for training and mentoring early-career scientists in ADRD research design.

Who should apply to this expanded training program in placebo effects as they relate to ADRD?

We welcome applications from early-career scientists (i.e., post-doctoral fellows, pre-tenure faculty), with a terminal degree from any discipline (i.e., PhD, ScD, MD, PharM, EdD, etc.) interested in learning methods for investigating the placebo effect and/or ADRD and related clinical conditions (i.e., cognitive or functional decline). 

We welcome applications from biological, behavioral or social scientists, clinicians, health services researchers, and investigators whose research focuses on minority populations. We welcome diversity of research experiences and approaches (observational and intervention/experimental, hypothesis generating and hypothesis testing, etc.). 

I study older adults, but I don’t study the placebo effect or ADRD specifically - is this program for me?

You do NOT need to be currently conducting research on placebo effects or ADRD to apply for this program. However, successful applicants will explain in their materials how they plan to incorporate conceptual models, study designs, data collection tools, and/or analytic approaches that relate to the placebo effect and/or ADRD in their future research.

How many scholars will be selected for this expanded training program?

We will enroll five scholars in the 2021/2022 expanded training program. 

What is involved in the expanded training program?

Our expansion program participants are expected to commit to the following elements of the MIWI Training Program.

Attend the pre-institute webinar (held in October 2021) and complete needs training needs-assessment
Attend the residential institute (Nov 2-5, 2021) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Maintain ongoing communication with your mentorship team for the 6 months following the institute, including attending occasional webinars.
Complete evaluation survey at the end of the program (April 2021).

What can I expect to get out of the MIWI expansion training program? 

Scholars will receive focused research training that will help enhance their research programs in a manner that leverages insights from placebo/nocebo effects and/or ADRD. Additionally, the MIWI training program will provide support with disseminating work and writing papers and grants. 

What is the cost of participating in this MIWI expansion program?

There is no cost to participate. The program will cover the costs of attending the 4-day institute in November including travel to and from Ann Arbor and lodging. The program will also provide food during the residential institute.  

Are international applicants eligible for the program?

Yes. We will review international applications on a case-by-case basis. We may not be able to cover the cost of international airfare. 

Do I need to have a mentor prior to applying to the program?

No. Accepted applicants will be matched with a mentorship team consisting of one University of Michigan professor and one visiting professor based on the research proposal submitted in their application, as well as a needs-assessment which will be completed prior to the Institute. 

I am an established investigator. Am I eligible to apply for the MIWI expansion program? 

Yes. On a case by case basis we will consider applications from established investigators who are interested in expanding their expertise in the placebo effect and/or ADRD. Contact the MIWI Program Director, Dr. Briana Mezuk at bmezuk@umich.edu for more information. 

Is this expanded training only for U of M early career scientists or is it open to other institutions?

The MIWI expanded program training is open to early-career scientists from ALL other institutions both in-state and out of state including U of M.