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Opinion

A role for placebo therapy in psychogenic movement disorders

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

K. S. Rommelfanger receives funding for research from the Emory University Scholars Program in Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Research Fellowship. The author would like to thank the neurologists and psychiatrists who were generous with their time and willing to share their valuable thoughts and experiences on patients with psychogenic movement disorders and on placebo.

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Rommelfanger, K. A role for placebo therapy in psychogenic movement disorders. Nat Rev Neurol 9, 351–356 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrneurol.2013.65

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