Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 33 (8), 1213-1227

Neurobiology of Placebo Effect in Parkinson's Disease: What We Have Learned and Where We Are Going


Neurobiology of Placebo Effect in Parkinson's Disease: What We Have Learned and Where We Are Going

Aldo Quattrone et al. Mov Disord.


The placebo effect is a phenomenon produced when an inert substance administered like a regular treatment improves the clinical outcome. Parkinson's disease (PD) is one of the main clinical disorders for which the placebo response rates are high. The first evidence of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the placebo effect in PD stems from 2001, when de la Fuente-Fernandez and colleagues demonstrated that a placebo injection led to the release of dopamine in the striatal nuclei of PD measured with positron emission tomography technology. Since then, several studies have been conducted to investigate the neurobiological underpinnings of placebo responses. This article presents a systematic review following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines. Of an initial yield of 143 papers, 19 were included. The lessons learned from these studies are threefold: (i) motor improvement is dependent on the activation of the entire nigrostriatal pathway induced by dopamine release in the dorsal striatum; (ii) the magnitude of placebo-induced effects is modulated by an expectancy of improvement, which is in turn related to the release of dopamine within the ventral striatum; (iii) the functioning of the neural pathways underlying the placebo response can be tuned by prior exposure and learning strategies. In conclusion, although the neural network underlying the placebo effect in PD has been largely confirmed and accepted, what remains to be established is how, when, and where the expectation of reward (mediated by the ventral striatum) interacts with the primary motor system (mediated by the dorsal striatum) to induce clinical improvement in motor symptoms. © 2018 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; dopaminergic system; dorsal-ventral pathways; pathophysiology; placebo effect.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

MeSH terms

LinkOut - more resources