Study provides detailed look on the neuroscience of placebo effects

A new meta-analysis gives the most detailed look yet at the neuroscience of placebo effects. Much of the benefit that a person gets from taking a real drug or receiving a treatment to alleviate pain is due to an individual’s mindset, not to the drug itself, according to previous research. Understanding the neural mechanisms driving this placebo effect has long been a challenge. A meta-analysis published in Nature Communications finds that placebo treatments meant to reduce pain, known as placebo analgesia, reduce pain-related activity in multiple areas of the brain. Previous research of this kind has relied on small-scale studies, so until now, researchers did not know whether the neural mechanisms underlying placebo effects observed to date would hold up across larger samples. This study represents the first large-scale mega-analysis, which looks at individual participants’ whole brain images. It enabled researchers to look at parts of the brain they did not have sufficient…