In the study, 88 patients who were undergoing radiation treatment were divided into three groups. The first group served as a control and did not receive wristbands to wear. The other two groups were given wristbands, but provided with different kinds of information. Both groups were given pamphlets to read, but only one half of the handouts indicated that the wristbands may help with nausea — the other half offered only neutral information.
Participants in both of the two wristband groups reported a 23.8% reduction in nausea symptoms. Those in the control group reported only a 4.8% reduction in nausea. The researchers then analyzed the wristband groups further for any difference, and found that there was none.
Joseph A. Roscue, corresponding author on the study, says that, "[s]ome of our body's feelings and sensations are ambiguous and subject to interpretation. Your mind cannot make a blister go away, or reduce hair loss, but it can interpret ambiguous abdominal sensations and decide how much nausea they represent, based on our expectations."
Participants in both of the two wristband groups reported a 23.8% reduction in nausea symptoms. Those in the control group reported only a 4.8% reduction in nausea.
At its core, the study really was about whether or not changing people's expectations would change the perception of physical symptoms. Roscoe sums it up by saying that, "we attempted to manipulate the information we gave to patients, to see if their expectations about nausea could be changed. As it turned out, our information to change people's expectations had no effect — but we still found that the wristbands reduce nausea symptoms."
More research will be needed to figure out exactly why the wristbands alleviate nausea at all, and whether one's personal expectations (separate from those the researchers try to impart) may affect one's perception of symptoms.