Learning-related brain activity in Parkinson’s patients improves as much in response to a placebo treatment as to real medication, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and Columbia University.
Past research has shown that while Parkinson’s disease is a neurological reality, the brain systems involved may also be affected by a patient’s expectations about treatment. The new study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, explains how the placebo treatment — when patients believe they have received medication when they have not — works in people with Parkinson’s disease by activating dopamine-rich areas in the brain.
“The findings highlight the power of expectations to drive changes in the brain,” said Tor Wager, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU-Boulder and a co-author of the study. “The research highlights important links between psychology and medicine.”
See also: Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away
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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allan at Brains on Purpose