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Why Placebo Helps Parkinson's Patients

Science File | IN BRIEF

August 13, 2001

Patients in clinical studies often feel relief even when they're given placebos--pills that don't contain medications. The cause, doctors think, is the power of the mind to influence the body. But the nature of the mind-body link is unclear.

Now scientists at the University of British Columbia have an explanation for why such a strong "placebo effect" occurs in patients with the neurological condition known as Parkinson's disease.

Taking a placebo, the scientists report, acts in a similar way to the actual drugs used to fight Parkinson's disease. It increases the release of a key chemical called dopamine in parts of the brain that are damaged by the disease.

--Compiled by Rosie Mestel and Usha Lee McFarling

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