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Abstract | Full HTML Article | PDF ecancer 7 346 / DOI: 10.3332/ecancer.2013.346

Conference Report

Highlights from the 2013 Science of Placebo thematic workshop

In the last 30 years, a converging series of laboratory experiments, clinical trials, and neurocognitive studies have identified several key mechanisms of placebo effects. These studies suggest not only that placebo responses may be ubiquitous across research and clinical settings, but also that they can significantly modulate symptoms across a wide spectrum of highly prevalent conditions such as acute pain, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and nausea, just to name a few. In order to inform the medical community about the most recent advances in the field of placebo studies, a thematic workshop entitled “The Science of Placebo” was held at the Beth Israel Deaconesses Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School, in Boston (MA), on the 19–20 of June 2013. The workshop, sponsored by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was organised by the Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter, a Harvard-wide network of researchers dedicated to the study of the placebo phenomenon hosted by the BIDMC. The event was structured as a series of four public lectures, each delivered by a leading investigator in the field of placebo studies. The four keynote speakers were Fabrizio Benedetti, professor of neurophysiology and human physiology at the University of Turin Medical School and at the National Institute of Neuroscience in Italy; Tor Wager, director of the Cognitive and Affective Control Laboratory and associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado; Predrag Petrovic, psychiatrist and researcher in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; and Ted Kaptchuk, director of the Program in Placebo Studies and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Keywords: placebo, placebo effect, placebo response, pain, chronic pain, depression, Parkinson, fMRI, PET, randomisation, clinical trial, acupuncture

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European Cancer Organisation European Institute of Oncology

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