New study says Parkinson’s patients can be trained to respond to placebo

The administration of placebos has been found to elicit promising responses in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease (PD), but only if these patients have previously been taking apomorphine.

Italian researchers from the University of Turin Medical School studied 42 PD patients who had electrodes implanted for deep brain stimulation treatment. The study found that the initial introduction of a placebo had limited effect, provoking practically no response in the majority of patients.

However, the study later found that placebos led to significant clinical and neuronal responses in Parkinson’s sufferers in cases when the patients in question had been previously administered anti-PD drug, apomorphine.

The researchers revealed that the strength of patients’ responses to their placebo increased following each apomorphine dose – marking a significant breakthrough in their study.

The University of Turin team, reporting their findings in the Journal of Physiology on Tuesday, claimed that their results suggested that PD patients can be conditioned to respond to placebos. They added that their work could be used to reduce drug intake, for example, as part of alternating administration schedules.

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