Pinpointing the Brain Region Responsible for Pain Relieving Response

Following on last month’s discussion of the placebo effect in the Daily Dose, we report today on new research claiming to have identified the region in the brain responsible for eliciting the pain relieving effect of sham treatments. A study conducted by researchers from Northwestern Medicine and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to discover a specific brain region within the midfrontal gyrus that identified placebo medication responders with great accuracy in 2 trials. According to the authors, the findings have the potential to substantially advance the development of individualized pain therapy, and will lead to more accurate clinical trials for new pain medications by screening for individuals with high placebo response. The findings were published last week in PLOS Biology.

Marwan Baliki, PhD, research scientist at RIC and an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, commented, “Given the enormous societal toll of chronic pain, being able to predict placebo responders in a chronic pain population could both help the design of personalized medicine and enhance the success of clinical trials.” The authors called for additional study to prove the feasibility of brain-based predictive best-therapy selection, asserting that it could greatly decrease both the duration and magnitude of patient suffering and opioid use.

Read more about the findings here.

The journal article may be read here.

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