Expectation of treatment can improve brain activity

26 November 2014

Parkinson's patients can gain equal benefits from placebo treatments and medication in terms of brain activity, a new study has found.

The research, conducted at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder and Columbia University, explained how a placebo treatment works in people with Parkinson's disease by activating dopamine-rich areas in the brain.

Associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU-Boulder and a co-author of the study Tor Wager said the findings highlight the "power of expectations" on changing how the brain works.

For the new study, the research team gathered 18 patients with Parkinson's disease and used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan their brains as they played a computer game. During the game, patients had to discover through trial and error which of two symbols is more likely to lead to a better outcome.

After playing the game three times, they were given real medication or a placebo, which both proved to have the same results for activating dopamine-rich areas of the brain.

Posted by Philip Briggs​


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