The Placebo Effect in Parkinson's Disease Hideto Miwa 1 1Department of Neurology, Wakayama Medical University Keyword: placebo , dopamine , striatum , clinical trials , expectation pp.139-146
Published Date 2007/2/1
DOI https://doi.org/10.11477/mf.1416100017
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 “Placebo”is Latin for “I shall please”. The placebo effect has been widely documented by randomized placebo-controlled drug studies. One of the best examples of placebo effectiveness is that have been shown in clinical trials of anti-parkinsonian drugs. The placebo effect is observable not only in drug trials but also with deep brain stimulation. Recent advances in research on the placebo effect in Parkinson's disease (PD)have suggested that motor symptoms of PD can be essentially improved by placebo. A recent study using positron emission tomography(PET)with raclopride demonstrated that release of endogeneous dopamine in the dorsal striatum occurs in placebo-responsive patients with PD. This suggests that placebo-induced expectation of clinical improvement may activate endogenous dopamine in the striatum, and that placebo effectiveness is thus achieved by endogenous dopamine supplementation. Indeed, decreased neuronal activities in the subthalamic nucleus (STN), that were recorded during surgery to implant deep brain stimulation electrodes, correlated well with placebo-induced clinical improvement in patients with PD. Although the detailed pathophysiological mechanism underlying the placebo effects remains uncertain, theoretically, the placebo effect has generally been explained by two different mechanisms: one is conditioning theory (pavlovian conditioning), and the other is cognitive theory (expectation of clinical improvement). Although both mechanisms may contribute to placebo effects,the placebo effect in PD may be attributed more to cognitive mechanisms such as expectation of improvement, because the placebo effect can be obtained in de novo PD patients. There have been accumulating findings that suggest a functional relationship between dopamine and the expectation of clinical improvement (reward). Further basic studies are required to clarify the complex link between dopamine and the reward system,but such findings will contribute to a better understanding of the pathophysiological mechanism underlying the placebo effect in PD.

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