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Placebo effect/Bibliography

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A list of key readings about Placebo effect.
Please sort and annotate in a user-friendly manner. For formatting, consider using automated reference wikification.

Selection of Reviews on The Placebo Effect

This is a selected subset of the review articles that were published in peer-reviewed academic journals about the placebo effect in 2007-2008.

Brain Imaging Studies

  • Diederich NJ, Goetz CG.(2008) The placebo treatments in neurosciences: New insights from clinical and neuroimaging studies. Neurology 71:677-84 PMID 18725593 "A positive placebo response is seen in up to 50% of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), pain syndromes, and depression. The response is more pronounced with invasive procedures or advanced disease."
  • Oken BS (2008) Placebo effects: clinical aspects and neurobiology.Brain 131:2812-23. PMID 18567924 "Recent research in placebo analgesia and other conditions has demonstrated that several neurotransmitter systems, such as opiate and dopamine, are involved with the placebo effect. Brain regions including anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia have been activated following administration of placebo. A patient's expectancy of improvement may influence outcomes as much as some active interventions and this effect may be greater for novel interventions and for procedures"
  • Cavanna AE, Strigaro G, Monaco F (2007) Brain mechanisms underlying the placebo effect in neurological disorders. Funct Neurol 22:89-94. PMID 17637211 "Converging evidence suggests that placebo analgesia is linked to the activation of the endogenous opioid analgesia network, whilst dopaminergic pathways seem to play a central role in the placebo effect in movement disorders and neuroimmunomodulation."
  • Kong J et al. (2007) Placebo analgesia: findings from brain imaging studies and emerging hypotheses.Rev Neurosci18:173-90. PMID 18019605 "...placebo treatment may exert an analgesic effect on at least three stages of pain processing, by 1) influencing pre-stimulus expectation of pain relief, 2) modifying pain perception, and 3) distorting post-stimulus pain rating."
  • Price DD, Finniss DG, Benedetti F (2008) A comprehensive review of the placebo effect: recent advances and current thought. Annu Rev Psychol 59:565-90. PMID 17550344 - major review article; "Placebo factors have neurobiological underpinnings and actual effects on the brain and body. They are not just response biases."
  • Lidstone SC, Stoessl AJ (2007) Understanding the placebo effect: contributions from neuroimaging. Mol Imaging Biol 9176-85. PMID 17334853 "Evidence from positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies suggests that expectations of symptom improvement are driven by frontal cortical areas, particularly the dorsolateral prefrontal, orbitofrontal, and anterior cingulate cortices. The ventral striatum is involved in the expectation of rewarding stimuli and, together with the prefrontal cortex, has also been shown to play an important role in the placebo-induced expectation of therapeutic benefit."
  • Beauregard M (2007) Mind does really matter: evidence from neuroimaging studies of emotional self-regulation, psychotherapy, and placebo effect. Prog Neurobiol 81:218-36. PMID 17349730 "Neuroimaging investigations of the placebo effect in healthy individuals (placebo analgesia, psychostimulant expectation) and patients with Parkinson's disease or unipolar major depressive disorder are also reviewed. The results of these investigations demonstrate that beliefs and expectations can markedly modulate neurophysiological and neurochemical activity in brain regions involved in perception, movement, pain, and various aspects of emotion processing"
  • Benedetti F (2008) Mechanisms of placebo and placebo-related effects across diseases and treatments.Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol 48:33-60. PMID 17666008 "In recent years, placebo and placebo-related effects have been analyzed with sophisticated biological tools that have uncovered specific mechanisms at both the biochemical and cellular level. This recent research has revealed that these psychosocial-induced biochemical changes in a patient's brain and body in turn may affect the course of a disease and the response to a therapy."

Nocebo responses

  • Schenk PW (2008) 'Just breathe normally': word choices that trigger nocebo responses in patients. Am J Nurs 108:52-7 PMID 18316911 "Negative reactions to placebo medications -- sometimes called "nocebo effects" -- are well documented. Similar responses can be induced in suggestible patients when providers use language that tends to increase patients' stress and negative expectations."
  • Benedetti F et al. (2007) When words are painful: unraveling the mechanisms of the nocebo effect Neuroscience 147:260-71. PMID 17379417 "Recent experimental evidence indicates that negative verbal suggestions induce anticipatory anxiety about the impending pain increase, and this verbally-induced anxiety triggers the activation of cholecystokinin (CCK) which, in turn, facilitates pain transmission."
  • Olshansky B (2007) Placebo and nocebo in cardiovascular health: implications for healthcare, research, and the doctor-patient relationship. J Am Coll Cardiol 49:415-21. PMID 17258086 "Despite treatments proven effective by sound study designs and robust end points, placebos remain integral to elicit effective medical care. The authenticity of the placebo response has been questioned, but placebos likely affect pain, functionality, symptoms, and quality of life. In cardiology, placebos influence disability, syncope, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, angina, and survival. "


  • Lee YY, Lin JL (2008) Linking patients' trust in physicians to health outcomes. Br J Hosp Med (Lond) 69:42-6 PMID 18293731 "The consequences of patients' trust in physicians and the practical implications of trust to quality patient care are presented."

Implications for clinical practice

  • Koshi EB, Short CA (2007) Placebo theory and its implications for research and clinical practice: a review of the recent literature. Pain Pract 7:4-20. PMID 17305673 "New theories on placebo mechanisms have shown that placebo represents the psychosocial aspect of every treatment and the study of placebo is essentially the study of psychosocial context that surrounds the patient."
  • Meissner K et al. (2007) Evidence for placebo effects on physical but not on biochemical outcome parameters: a review of clinical trials BMC Med 19;5:3. PMID 17371590 "Recent reviews on placebo effects in clinical trials suggest that objective changes following placebo treatments may not exist or, at least, have been considerably overestimated. However, the possibility that yet unidentified subsets of parameters are responsive to placebo treatments has not been taken into account. ... The results suggest that placebo interventions can improve physical disease processes of peripheral organs more easily and effectively than biochemical processes."
  • Posternak MA, Zimmerman M (2007) Therapeutic effect of follow-up assessments on antidepressant and placebo response rates in antidepressant efficacy trials: meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry 190:287-92. PMID 17401033 "Follow-up assessments in antidepressant treatment trials incur a significant therapeutic effect for participants on placebo, and this represents about 40% of the placebo response."
  • Musial F et al.(2007) Placebo responses in patients with gastrointestinal disorders.World J Gastroenterol. 13:3425-9. PMID 17659688 "Placebo effects are common in gastrointestinal diseases and there seems to be no clear difference between placebo effects in functional gastrointestinal diseases (functional dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome) and organic gastrointestinal disease (duodenal ulcer and inflammatory bowel disease)."
  • Tilburt JC et al. Prescribing "placebo treatments": results of national survey of US internists and rheumatologists. BMJ 337:a1938. PMID 18948346 "Prescribing placebo treatments seems to be common and is viewed as ethically permissible among the surveyed US internists and rheumatologists. Vitamins and over the counter analgesics are the most commonly used treatments. Physicians might not be fully transparent with their patients about the use of placebos and might have mixed motivations for recommending such treatments."
  • Weiss RD et al. (2008) Do patients with alcohol dependence respond to placebo? Results from the COMBINE Study. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 69:878-84. PMID 18925346 "The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism COMBINE (Combining Medications and Behavioral Interventions) study, a randomized controlled double-blind trial of 1,383 alcohol-dependent patients ...There appeared to be a significant "placebo effect" in the COMBINE Study, consisting of pill taking and seeing a health care professional."