Placebo Responses in Genetically Determined Intellectual Disability: A Meta-Analysis

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Placebo Responses in Genetically Determined Intellectual Disability: A Meta-Analysis

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Title: Placebo Responses in Genetically Determined Intellectual Disability: A Meta-Analysis
Author: Curie, Aurore; Yang, Kathy; Kirsch, Irving; Gollub, Randy L.; des Portes, Vincent; Kaptchuk, Ted J.; Jensen, Karin B.

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Citation: Curie, Aurore, Kathy Yang, Irving Kirsch, Randy L. Gollub, Vincent des Portes, Ted J. Kaptchuk, and Karin B. Jensen. 2015. “Placebo Responses in Genetically Determined Intellectual Disability: A Meta-Analysis.” PLoS ONE 10 (7): e0133316. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133316.
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Abstract: Background: Genetically determined Intellectual Disability (ID) is an intractable condition that involves severe impairment of mental abilities such as learning, reasoning and predicting the future. As of today, little is known about the placebo response in patients with ID. Objective: To determine if placebo response exists in patients with genetically determined ID. Data sources and Study selection We searched Medline/PubMed, EMBASE, CENTRAL and PsycINFO to find all placebo-controlled double-blind randomized clinical trials (RCTs) in patients with genetically determined ID, published up to April 2013, focusing on core ID symptoms. Data extraction and synthesis Two investigators extracted outcome data independently. Main outcomes and measures Bias-corrected standardized mean difference (Hedge’s g) was computed for each outcome measure, using the Comprehensive Meta-Analysis software. A priori defined patient sub-groups were analyzed using a mixed-effect model. The relationship between pre-defined continuous variable moderators (age, IQ, year of publication and trial duration) and effect size was analyzed using meta-regression Results: Twenty-two placebo-controlled double-blind RCTs met the inclusion criteria (n = 721, mean age = 17.1 years, 62% men, mean trial duration = 35 weeks). There was a significant overall placebo response from pre- to post-treatment in patients with ID (g = 0.468, p = 0.002), both for “subjective outcomes” (a third-person’s evaluation of the patient) (g = 0.563, p = 0.022) and “objective outcomes” (direct evaluation of the patient’s abilities) (g = 0.434, p = 0.036). Individuals with higher IQ had higher response to placebo (p = 0.02) and no placebo response was observed in ID patients with comorbid dementia. A significant effect of age (p = 0.02) was found, indicating higher placebo responses in treatment of younger patients. Conclusions and relevance Results suggest that patients with genetically determined ID improve in the placebo arm of RCTs. Several mechanisms may contribute to placebo effects in ID, including expectancy, implicit learning and “placebo-by-proxy” induced by clinicians/family members. As the condition is refractory, there is little risk that improvements are explained by spontaneous remission. While new avenues for treatment of genetically determined ID are emerging, our results demonstrate how contextual factors can affect clinical outcomes and emphasize the importance of being vigilant on the role of placebos when testing novel treatments in ID.
Published Version: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133316
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