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Study of Human Brain Images Generates New Insights into the Neurobiology of the Placebo Effect

Scientists for the Placebo Neuroimaging Consortium have undertaken a systematic meta-analysis of human neuroimaging studies to generate new insights into how placebo treatments for pain reduction—placebo analgesia—reduce pain-related activity in multiple areas of the brain. The team claims their research, which involved analyzing experimental functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from 600 patients involved in 20 neuroimaging studies, represents the first large-scale mega-analysis that looked at individual participants’ whole brain images. The results will help researchers better understand the size, localization, significance and heterogeneity of placebo effects on pain-related brain activity, and could have implications for clinical care and drug development.

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