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Imagination Medicine

Brain imaging reveals the substance of placebos. Expectation alone triggers the same neural circuits and chemicals as real drugs

By
12:33pm, December 5, 2008

Placebos are supposed to be nothing. They’re sugar pills, shots of saline, fake creams; they’re given to the comparison group in drug trials so doctors can see whether a new treatment is better than no treatment.

But placebos aren’t nothing. Their ingredients may be bogus, but the elicited reactions are real. “The placebo effect is in some way the bane of the pharma industry’s existence because people have this

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