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The placebo response: neurobiological and clinical issues of neurological relevance.

Review article
Pollo A, et al. Prog Brain Res. 2009.

Abstract

The recent upsurge in placebo research has demonstrated the sound neurobiological substrate of a phenomenon once believed to be only patient mystification, or at best a variable to control in clinical trials, bringing about a new awareness of its potential exploitation to the patient's benefit and framing it as a positive context effect, with the power to influence the therapy outcome. Placebo effects have been described both in the experimental setting and in different clinical conditions, many of which are of neurological interest. Multiple mechanisms have been described, namely conditioning and cognitive factors like expectation, desire, and reward. A body of evidence from neurochemical, pharmacological, and neuroimaging studies points to the involvement of neural pathways specific to single conditions, such as the activation of the endogenous antinociceptive system during placebo analgesia or the release of dopamine in the striatum of parkinsonian patients experiencing placebo reduction of motor impairment. The possible clinical applications of placebo studies range from the design of clinical trials incorporating specific recommendations and minimizing the use of placebo arms to the optimization of the context surrounding the patient, in order to maximize the placebo component present in any treatment.

PMID

19660663 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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