The Leenaards Foundation supports two projects led by Principal Investigators from The Sense

The Leenaards Foundation provides its support to two projects co-led by two Sense PIs as part of their “Integrative Health & Society” initiative. These projects, “I AM for Healthy Ageing: Impact of Art-Making for Healthy Ageing, Cognition, and Brain Function” and “Conditioned Open Placebo: A Psychocorporal Technique for Optimizing Postoperative Pain Management,” are led by Professor Micah Murray and Dr. Aurore Fernandez (Project Manager, affiliated to The Sense and part of the Professor Chantal Berna Renella Unit). Sense’s Executive Director, Professor Olivier Lorentz, welcomes this recognition and Leenaards’ support for the expertise of those affiliated with Sense.


Integrative Health & Society

Within the third domain of SCIENCES & HEALTH, the Foundation aims to contribute to an integrative approach to health and care through the “Integrative Health & Society” initiative, as well as engage in societal discussions related to life sciences and health. The Foundation’s starting point is the realization that, according to the latest Swiss Health Survey, one-third of patients turn to so-called non-conventional medicine to address their illnesses. The success of complementary approaches demonstrates that the current evidence-based healthcare system only partially meets people’s expectations. In this context, the “Integrative Health & Society” initiative seeks to bring patients and stakeholders involved in various healthcare methods together to foster meaningful dialogue. The goal is to find common ground that unites, rather than divides, the realms of health.


Projects Co-led by Sense PIs

This year, the Leenaards Foundation is supporting nine research-action projects. These projects aim to enhance the understanding and interdisciplinary application of health and care, involving both healthcare professionals and patients. A total of 34 projects were submitted in response to the call for proposals. While the themes vary, all these projects share the common feature of being field projects with a patient dimension or involving patients.

Conditioned Open Placebo: A Psychocorporal Technique for Optimizing Postoperative Pain Management

Dr. Aurore Fernandez, Lausanne University Hospital / Professor Chantal Berna Renella, Lausanne University Hospital / Dr. David Hohenschurz-Schmidt, University College London / Dr. Marc Suter, Lausanne University Hospital

The placebo effect relies on psychobiological mechanisms. It can be transparently harnessed by explaining these mechanisms while informing individuals of the absence of an active substance, known as open placebo. Studies have shown the effective use of open placebo in managing various types of pain. What if patients could benefit from this approach after surgery? Opioids are the most potent drugs for acute pain. Unfortunately, they have significant side effects and risks, as demonstrated by the ongoing crisis in the United States. Despite this, Switzerland is currently the world’s second-largest consumer of opioids. Postoperative medical prescriptions can lead to chronic opioid use. New approaches that rely less on opioids to ensure optimal postoperative comfort are therefore necessary. The use of open placebo is a complementary approach to enhance the relief of postoperative pain. A pilot study in the United States demonstrated that after two days of combining a placebo with opioid use, placebo doses alone provided relief. This allowed for a reduction in the amounts of ingested medication while ensuring patient comfort. Our study aims to assess the feasibility of using open placebo in a Swiss university hospital and to promote the use of this promising technique. Patients and hospital staff will be interviewed regarding their beliefs and openness to innovative therapies. This project has the potential to promote a psychocorporal self-care technique, thereby fostering a paradigm shift in the healthcare system. Patients have the opportunity to become more active in managing their postoperative pain.

I AM for Healthy Ageing: Impact of Art-Making for Healthy Ageing, Cognition, and Brain Function

Professor Micah Murray, University of Lausanne / Ms. Naomi Middelmann, Lausanne University Hospital / Dr. Andrea Brioschi Guevara, Leenaards Memory Center, CHUV / Professor Gilles Allali, Lausanne University Hospital

The project employs visual arts as a tool for promoting health among those aged 65 and above. While many are aware of the benefits of musical training, there is also scientific evidence supporting the benefits of visual arts training at any age. Artistic creation can enhance overall cognition and working memory, while reducing depressive symptoms and anxiety. The project focuses on accessible and cost-effective preventive care. It also adopts a holistic approach to how artistic and musical activities affect mental and physical well-being. The primary objective is to quantitatively assess the benefits of a 12-week artistic training program on psychophysical performance, cognition, and brain functions. This project encourages collaboration between arts and sciences, involving an interdisciplinary team of co-investigators and engaging artists and musicians in course development. Regardless of scientific findings, one independent outcome of the project will be the establishment of a network of local artists willing to offer artistic creation courses to retirees and others.

To achieve these goals, we will use a combination of brain imaging and behavioral measures to identify specific effects related to artistic creation, distinct from what is observed in two comparison groups. We will examine whether artistic creation enhances visual memory, visuospatial abilities, and observational skills, both visually and more generally.