1996-1997 indexDistributed April 15, 1997
Student wins Shy Award for nation's best clinical neurology paper
Neetha Shetty, a second-year student in the Brown University School of Medicine, has received the G. Milton Shy Award from the American Academy of Neurology for the best clinical research paper submitted by a U.S. medical student.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Neetha Shetty, a second-year student in the Brown University School of Medicine, received the G. Milton Shy Award from the American Academy of Neurology at the group's annual meeting in Boston April 15. The award was presented for the best clinical research paper submitted by a U.S. medical student.
The Shy Award includes $350 and a one-year subscription to the journal Neurology. Shetty also presented her paper during a poster session at the annual meeting.
For her research, Shetty searched through scientific articles on 98 studies of Parkinson's disease and found placebos produced a response in 70 percent of patients. To test her results, Shetty examined the placebo response in patients participating in a 5-year study of Parkinson's disease. She found that 140 of the 198 people in the study, or 71 percent, showed either improved or worsened symptoms after receiving placebos.
Her finding that such a significant number of people show symptom changes after taking a placebo, which is an inactive substance, will allow researchers worldwide to clarify their methodology for conducting drug-trial studies on Parkinson's disease.
One of the best aspects of the research was the chance to get to know people with the disorder, said Shetty, a Providence native. Parkinson's disease is a chronic nervous disorder marked by tremors and rigid muscles. The duration of the disease is indefinite, and recovery occurs rarely if ever.
Some Parkinson's patients have obsessive-compulsive disorder traits. As a result, their obsessions may take the form of a greater interest, awareness and knowledge of their disorder. Shetty said that working with such patients provided her with a good chance to learn what those patients were going through. "To know what an illness is like, from the patient's perspective, is very important," she said.
A significant response to placebos is found in drug trials for many diseases. Researchers do not know the biological basis for such effects. However, some scientists think the phenomenon reflects the importance of psychological factors, such as having faith in one's doctor or believing in one's own recuperative powers, to fight disease or illness. "This effect is important to understand because you don't treat patients just with drugs, you also work with them one-on-one," Shetty said.
Shetty conducted her study under the guidance of Joseph H. Friedman, M.D., chief of the division of neurology at Memorial Hospital and professor of neurology and clinical neurosciences. Friedman also directs the Brown University Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Unit, based at the hospital.######