Abstract Title:

Induction of nocebo and placebo effects on itch and pain by verbal suggestions.

Abstract Source:

Pain. 2011 Jul;152(7):1486-94. Epub 2011 Feb 24. PMID: 21353388

Abstract Author(s):

Antoinette I M van Laarhoven, Michiel L Vogelaar, Oliver H Wilder-Smith, Piet L C M van Riel, Peter C M van de Kerkhof, Floris W Kraaimaat, Andrea W M Evers

Article Affiliation:

Department of Medical Psychology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Physical complaints, such as pain, can be effectively reduced by placebo effects through induction of positive expectations, or increased by nocebo effects through induction of negative expectations. In the present study, verbally induced nocebo and placebo effects on itch were experimentally investigated for the first time. In part 1, the role of verbal suggestions in inducing nocebo effects on itch and pain was investigated. All subjects received the same somatosensory quantitative sensory testing stimuli, that is, mechanical and electrical stimuli and application of histamine, and verbal suggestions to manipulate expectations regarding the stimuli. The suggestions were designed to produce either high expectations for itch (itch nocebo) or pain (pain nocebo) or low expectations for itch (itch nocebo control) or pain (pain nocebo control). Results showed that high itch and pain expectations resulted in higher levels of itch and pain, respectively. When comparing nocebo effects, induced by verbal suggestions, results were more pronounced for itch than for pain. In part 2, verbal suggestions designed to produce a placebo effect on itch (itch placebo) or pain (pain placebo), or neutral suggestions (itch placebo control and pain placebo control) were given regarding a second application of histamine and compared with the first application applied in part 1. Results of placebo effects only showed a significantly larger decrease in itch in the itch placebo condition than in the pain placebo condition. In conclusion, we showed for the first time that nocebo and possibly placebo responses can be induced on itch by verbal suggestions. Experiments of nocebo and placebo effects on itch and pain demonstrated that particularly nocebo effects can be induced on itch and pain by verbal suggestions.

Study Type : Human Study

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