Fabrizio Benedetti

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Fabrizio Benedetti is professor of physiology and neuroscience at the University of Turin Medical School in Turin, Italy and a researcher in the field of placebo studies.[1] He is known for his research into the placebo and nocebo effects.

Placebo and nocebo research[edit]

Benedetti began studying placebos in the 1990s while researching pain.[2] His research has found that "the promise of treatment activates areas of the brain involved in weighing the significance of events and the seriousness of threats."[2] Another of Benedetti's studies examined the effectiveness of placebos in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, and the effect of this treatment on neurons that control movement. He found that giving these patients a placebo led to a decrease in the rate at which these neurons fired of about 40%, and that this enabled the patients to move more easily.[3] In 2007, Benedetti published a study in which he and his co-authors gave subjects morphine during a hand-squeezing exercise, and later replaced the morphine with a placebo without the subjects' knowledge. In this study, the subjects who received morphine and then a placebo endured significantly more pain than did patients in any of the control groups.[4][5] In a 2011 paper, Benedetti and co-authors argued that there exist many different placebo effects, "with different mechanisms and in different diseases, systems, and therapeutic interventions."[6]

He has also published research on the nocebo effect; in some of these studies, he found that cholecystokinin is responsible for the transmission of pain by the nocebo effect. This research also found that drugs used to block this chemical, such as proglumide, can also stop nocebo pain.[7][8][9] Another of Benedetti's studies found that when individuals were told about a possible link between high altitudes and headaches before going on a high-altitude hike in the Italian Alps, it led to an enhancement of the cyclooxygenase-prostaglandin pathway in those individuals, and that they developed significantly more headaches than the control group did.[10][11]


Benedetti has been credited as being partly responsible for the increasing respectability of research into the placebo effect.[12] A review of his book Placebo Effects: Understanding the mechanisms in health and disease in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that he runs "the foremost laboratory for the study of placebo effects in the world."[13]

Awards and honors[edit]

Benedetti is a member of the Academy of Europe and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain. Additionally, his book Placebo Effects: Understanding the mechanisms in health and disease won the British Medical Association's Highly Commended Book Award.[14]


  • Placebo Effects: Understanding the mechanisms in health and disease (Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • The Patient’s Brain: The Neuroscience Behind the Doctor–Patient Relationship (Oxford University Press, 2010)


  1. ^ "Turin Research Group". Archived from the original on 22 June 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b Silberman, Steve (24 August 2009). "Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why". Wired. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  3. ^ Neergaard, Lauren (28 November 2005). "Expecting benefit really can help healing". USA Today. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  4. ^ Benedetti, F.; Pollo, A.; Colloca, L. (31 October 2007). "Opioid-Mediated Placebo Responses Boost Pain Endurance and Physical Performance: Is It Doping in Sport Competitions?". Journal of Neuroscience. 27 (44): 11934–11939. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3330-07.2007. PMID 17978033.
  5. ^ "How to cheat without cheating". The Economist. 1 November 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  6. ^ Benedetti, Fabrizio; Carlino, Elisa; Pollo, Antonella (30 June 2010). "How Placebos Change the Patient's Brain". Neuropsychopharmacology. 36 (1): 339–354. doi:10.1038/npp.2010.81. PMC 3055515. PMID 20592717.
  7. ^ Benedetti, F.; Amanzio, M.; Vighetti, S.; Asteggiano, G. (15 November 2006). "The Biochemical and Neuroendocrine Bases of the Hyperalgesic Nocebo Effect". Journal of Neuroscience. 26 (46): 12014–12022. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2947-06.2006. PMID 17108175.
  8. ^ Sarchet, Penny (13 November 2011). "The nocebo effect: Wellcome Trust science writing prize essay". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  9. ^ Scudellari, Megan (1 July 2013). "Worried Sick". The Scientist. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  10. ^ Benedetti, Fabrizio; Durando, Jennifer; Vighetti, Sergio (May 2014). "Nocebo and placebo modulation of hypobaric hypoxia headache involves the cyclooxygenase-prostaglandins pathway". Pain. 155 (5): 921–928. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2014.01.016. PMID 24462931.
  11. ^ Robson, David (11 February 2015). "The contagious thought that could kill you". BBC. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  12. ^ Vance, Erik (27 July 2010). "Get to Know the Placebo Effect". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  13. ^ Brody, Howard A. (9 April 2009). "Book Review Placebo Effects: Understanding the Mechanisms in Health and Disease By Fabrizio Benedetti. 295 pp., illustrated. New York, Oxford University Press, 2009. $59.95. 978-0-19-955912-1". New England Journal of Medicine. 360 (15): 1576–1577. doi:10.1056/NEJMbkrev0810817.
  14. ^ Benedetti, Fabrizio (May 2011). "Ask the Experts: Is there a place for placebo analgesia in everyday clinical practice?". Pain Management. 1 (3): 211–212. doi:10.2217/pmt.11.16. ISSN 1758-1869. PMID 24646386.

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