Placebo Research Update with Fabrizio Benedetti (BSP 127)

I have just posted a new interview with Dr. Fabrizio Benedetti, one of the world's leading researchers of the neurobiology of placebos. Dr. Benedetti emphasized that there is no such thing as THE placebo effect, because there are multiple placebo EFFECTS with widely varying mechanisms. For example, in pain relief there are at least two different mechanisms: one involving endogenous opioids while the other involves endogenous cannaboids (marijuana-like compounds).

We also talked about some his latest research into placebo effects in the context of high altitude headaches. Here again, multiple pathways have been discovered. We concluded our conversation with look at some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of placebos.

This is a follow-up interview, which can be enjoyed by listeners of all backgrounds, but I highly recommend going back to BSP 122 if you need a review of the basics of placebo neurobiology.

How to get this episode:

  • FREE: audio mp3 (click to stream, right click to download)

  • Episode Transcript [Buy for $1]

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  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are ALWAYS FREE. All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free. See the individual show notes for links to the audio files.


  • Placebo Effects: Understanding the mechanisms in health and disease by Fabrizio Benedetti

  • The Patient's Brain: The neuroscience behind the doctor-patient relationship by Fabrizio Benedetti

  • Benedetti, F. Placebo Effects: From the Neurobiological Paradigm to Translational Implications. Neuron Volume 84, Issue 3, p623–637, 5 November 2014. Free Article

  • Benedetti, F. and Dogue S. Different Placebos, Different Mechanisms, Different Outcomes: Lessons for Clinical Trials. PLoS One. 2015 Nov 4;10(11):e0140967. Free Article

  • Benedetti F, Durando J, Giudetti L, Pampallona A, Vighetti S. High-altitude headache: the effects of real vs sham oxygen administration. Pain. 2015 Nov;156(11):2326-36. Abstract

  • Carlino E, Frisaldi E, Benedetti F. Pain and the context. Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2014 Jun;10(6):348-55. Abstract

  • Benedetti F. Drugs and placebos: what's the difference?: Understanding the molecular basis of the placebo effect could help clinicians to better use it in clinical practice. EMBO Rep. 2014 Apr; 15(4): 329–332. Free Article

  • Benedetti F. Placebo and the New Physiology of the Doctor-Patient Relationship
    Physiol Rev. 2013 July; 93(3): 1207–1246. Abstract

  • See Episode Transcript for additional links and references.


I have been hosting and producing the Brain Science Podcast since December, 2006. Thanks to the support of my listeners the show has enjoyed over 7 1/2 million downloads, and continues to reach new listeners. Unfortunately since my husband's death last summer I have found it difficult to continue to produce new content while trying deal with the changes in my life. I have decided to put the Brain Science Podcast on a six month hiatus, but I do plan to air a new episode in September 2016. Your ongoing support is greatly appreciated.