In recent years, the placebo effect has been a topic of considerable interest both in the scientific and the clinical community. In this time, the placebo effect has evolved from being considered a nuisance in clinical and pharmacological research to becoming a neurobiological phenomenon worthy of scientific investigation in its own right. Recent research shows that placebo effects are genuine psychobiological events attributable to the overall therapeutic context and that these effects can be robust in both laboratory and clinical settings. These psychosocially induced biochemical changes in a patient’s brain and body may, in turn, affect the course of a disease and the response to therapy. Here we summarize and discuss the current insights into placebo mechanisms and discuss the potentially widespread implications for research and clinical practice. Even though a systematic knowledge of placebo effects across the lifespan is lacking, we aim at highlighting specific aspects related to the care of elderly patients and those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.
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