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Medical News & Perspectives
October 12, 2005

Pain Studies Illuminate the Placebo Effect

JAMA. 2005;294(14):1750-1751. doi:10.1001/jama.294.14.1750

Insights gleaned from brain imaging technologies that allow scientists to observe neurobiological mechanisms of the placebo effect may one day alter the way clinical trials are conducted and provide clues to treating pain and other disorders.

Using magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography scans, scientists have provided the first direct evidence that the endogenous opioid system, specifically activity on the opioid receptors, mediates the placebo effect (Zubieta et al. J Neurosci. 2005;25:7754-7762). The findings build on other recent imaging studies that have identified brain areas activated or monitored the activity of single neurons when a placebo is given.

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