Nature Reviews Neurology 9, 351-356 (June 2013) | doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2013.65

Subject Categories: Neuroethics | Movement disorders | Neuropsychiatric disorders | Cognitive neurology

Opinion: A role for placebo therapy in psychogenic movement disorders

Karen S. Rommelfanger  About the author


Psychogenic movement disorders (PMDs) mimic known movement disorders but are not attributed to an underlying neurological pathology and are generally thought to have a psychological origin. Owing to the lack of a clear pathology, patients often experience multiple referrals, frequent office visits, and numerous—often fruitless—technically sophisticated tests and interventions. No standard of care exists for PMDs, and affected patients can experience debilitating symptoms for a lifetime. Some physicians advocate the use of placebo treatment for patients with PMDs, and placebo therapy can have beneficial neurophysiological effects. Innovative research will be necessary to develop effective therapeutics for psychogenic disorders and to make recommendations for future clinician training and health care policy. This Perspectives article aims to trigger international dialogue focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with PMDs, and to reframe and deepen discussion of placebo prescribing for PMDs and beyond.

Author affiliations

K. S. Rommelfanger
Center for Ethics, Neuroethics Program, Emory University, 1531 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.

Published online 30 April 2013

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