Friday Factoids: The Placebo Effect: It's All In The Mind . . . Or, Actually, The Brain!



Science is constantly testing and re-testing the effects of treatments.  One way that scientists argue for the efficacy of a specific treatment is to compare its effects to that of a placebo.


Many people have heard of the “placebo effect,” but may have found the term confusing.  A placebo effect occurs when there is a measurable improvement compared to no treatment during the use of a mock treatment, such as: receiving an injection of saline instead of an injection of the actual medication being tested.


One such method was employed during a study regarding the effects of an opioid analgesic during the induction of pain. The researchers found that similar areas of the brain, specifically the anterior cingulate cortex (an area containing many opioid receptors), were activated during the drug treatment compared to the administration of the placebo on the positron emission tomography (PET) scans.


Petrovic, P., Kalso, E., Petersson, K. M., & Ingvar, M. (2002). Placebo and opioid analgesia: Imaging a shared neuronal network. Science, 295, 1737-1740.


Cassandra A. Sturycz, B.A.
Psychology Practicum Student



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