Science August 10, 2001;
Despite a recent report questioning whether an inactive medical treatment can cause improvement in patients´ symptoms, new research from Canada suggests that the placebo effect is real.
The study found that Parkinson´s disease patients who took an inactive placebo pill experienced a substantial increase in the release of a brain chemical called dopamine. The release of dopamine is impaired in people with Parkinson´s.
The researchers measured dopamine levels under two different conditions. During one part of the study, patients did not know whether they were taking the Parkinson´s drug apomorphine or a placebo. Dopamine was also measured under normal conditions when patients knew they were not taking a placebo.
When patients were unknowingly taking a placebo, they experienced an increase in dopamine levels similar to that caused by Parkinson´s drugs.
Science August 10, 2001; 293:1164-1166