MRI studies have previously been done on how expensive wine tastes better, because knowing you’re consuming something that’s got a higher price tag activates more pleasure centres in the brain.
But could the same principle work for distributing placebo medication? According to a new MRI study, it can.
The study, entitled Placebo effect of medication cost in Parkinson’s disease and published in Neurology on Wednesday, sought to determine if a patient’s perception of the cost of their medication could aid them in therapeutic use. Studies have previously found that the use of placebo in Parkinson’s patients contributes to improved motor function.
The researchers found 12 participants with “moderately advanced” Parkinson’s disease and gave them two versions of the same saline-solution placebo: one they told them was worth $100 a dose, and the second, worth $1500.
Both placebos improved the patients’ symptoms, but the ‘expensive’ one improved symptoms 9 per cent more than the ‘cheap’ one.
“Expensive placebo significantly improved motor function…” the researchers concluded. “Perceptions of cost are capable of altering the placebo response in clinical studies.”