The placebo response in pain and depression: in search of a common pathway

Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2010 Jan 1;2:106-11. doi: 10.2741/s49.


The placebo effect has been extensively studied in many disease states, some of the most notable being pain and depression. Utilizing a Medline search, studies were identified that reported on areas of the brain shown to be involved in either placebo analgesia or mood response. This paper presents a distillation of this research, in an effort to identify a common "placebo pathway" between mood and pain. Placebo-related responses to both analgesia and relief from depression were reported to be associated with an increase in activity in the frontal cortex and a decrease in activity in the thalamus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Frontal Lobe / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Placebos / pharmacology
  • Placebos / therapeutic use*
  • Thalamus / drug effects*


  • Placebos