Placebo effect and dopamine release
The placebo effect can be encountered in a great variety of medical conditions, but is particularly prominent in pain, depression and Parkinson’s disease. It has been shown that placebo responses play a part in the effect of any type of treatment for Parkinson’s disease, including drug therapy, deep brain stimulation and dopamine tissue transplantation. Recent studies have demonstrated that the placebo effect in Parkinson’s disease is related to the release of substantial amounts of endogenous dopamine in both the dorsal and ventral striatum. As the ventral striatum is involved in reward processing, these observations suggest that the placebo effect may be linked to reward mechanisms. In keeping with this placebo-reward model, most recent experiments have shown activation of the reward circuitry in association with placebo responses in other disorders. In addition, as dopamine is the major neurotransmitter in the reward circuitry, the model predicts that the release of dopamine in the ventral striatum could be involved in mediating placebo responses not only in Parkinson’s but also in other medical conditions.
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