Monday, March 16, 2015

Brain distinguish placebo from real drug?

Perhaps, you know "Placebo effect." Human's body often responds to fake drugs as well as the real drugs. You will feel better after taking a pill which includes nothing effective to mitigate your headache.

Placebo effect was reported by Beecher in 1955 officially for the first time. Several studies suggest that even the pain from progressive cancers can be reduced by 30% using placebo. Since this fact was spread among scientists, placebo-controlled trials have been required in a clinical trial of a new drug. Otherwise, we would be deceived by noneffective drugs.

The source of placebo effect is estimated as some endogenic reactions. For example, our brain can discharges natural painkilling chemicals soon after we take a pill which we believe as a painkiller. This reaction can occur also in a real drug. Indeed, some patients gain much more benefit from a drug than others.

Recently, a research team published an interesting paper regarding placebo effect. According to their report, an algorithm could distinguish the brain scan images of functional MRI of a person taking painkiller from those taking placebo. It means that the brain is also capable to detect the placebo effect.


In this article, the researchers seem to be confident that this finding will contribute to the development of new drugs. Actually, the perception against drug effects has been studied only with subject manner so far. Functional MRI will be desirable in this region for its high time resolution. I hope further progress will be reported soon.

Science Translational Medicine: Learning to identify CNS drug action and efficacy using multistudy fMRI data

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