Investigating dose-dependent effects of placebo analgesia: A psychophysiological approach.

Author: Nakamura Y, Donaldson GW, Kuhn R, Bradshaw DH, Jacobson RC, Chapman CR.
Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Research Center, Utah Center for Exploring Mind-Body Interactions (UCEMBI), University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Conference/Journal: Pain
Date published: 2011 Nov 19
Other: Word Count: 253

Investigating dose-dependent effects of placebo analgesia (PA) in laboratory subjects undergoing pain testing, we evaluated 2 hypotheses: (1) greater expectancy for relief produces greater PA, and (2) cued expectancy for relief triggered by a predictive cue leads to more enhanced analgesia than does passive expectancy (no predictive cue). We used conditioning procedures in which 84 subjects experienced reduced stimulation intensity following the application of purported analgesic creams to the 2 experimental fingers, while the control finger received the same levels of stimulation as in the baseline block. The dose of placebos was manipulated by creating 2 levels of expectations for relief. The form of expectation (cued vs uncued) was also manipulated by a predictive cue specifying the next finger to be stimulated. Subjective reports and psychophysiological responses served as critical indicators for evaluating impacts of the placebo manipulation on subsequent pain processing. The dose-dependent PA was unambiguously demonstrated by the predicted ordering of the 3 fingers (ie, manipulated expectation levels) in terms of both response sensitivity and average response magnitude, in mixed-effects analysis of 3 outcome indicators (evoked potential, skin conductance response, pain report). Greater expectation for relief led to both (1) greater reductions in the average dependent variable slope (response sensitivity) as a function of stimulus intensity, and (2) greater reductions in average response magnitude. Unexpectedly, uncued expectation led to a slightly larger PA than did cued expectation. The study provided clear evidence that PA can occur in a "dose"-dependent manner, mediated by the levels of expectancy for pain relief.

Crown Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

PMID: 22105010