Placebo and opioid analgesia-- imaging a shared neuronal network

Science. 2002 Mar 1;295(5560):1737-40. doi: 10.1126/science.1067176. Epub 2002 Feb 7.


It has been suggested that placebo analgesia involves both higher order cognitive networks and endogenous opioid systems. The rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) and the brainstem are implicated in opioid analgesia, suggesting a similar role for these structures in placebo analgesia. Using positron emission tomography, we confirmed that both opioid and placebo analgesia are associated with increased activity in the rACC. We also observed a covariation between the activity in the rACC and the brainstem during both opioid and placebo analgesia, but not during the pain-only condition. These findings indicate a related neural mechanism in placebo and opioid analgesia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Brain Stem / blood supply
  • Brain Stem / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Gyrus Cinguli / blood supply
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Pain
  • Pain Measurement
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Placebo Effect*
  • Placebos / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Opioid / metabolism
  • Remifentanil
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Piperidines
  • Placebos
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Remifentanil