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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Sep 2019 - 27 Sep 2019


Human Studies


PLoS One



Placebo analgesia induced by verbal suggestion in the context of experimentally induced fear and anxiety.


Świder K, Bąbel P, Wronka E, van Rijn CM, Oosterman JM
PLoS One. 2019; 14(9):e0222805.
PMID: 31550290.


The role of state anxiety and state fear in placebo effects is still to be determined. We aimed to investigate the effect of fear of movement-related pain (FMRP) and contextual pain related anxiety (CPRA) on the magnitude of placebo analgesia induced by verbal suggestion. Fifty-six female participants completed a modified voluntary joystick movement paradigm (VJMP) where half participated in a predictable pain condition (PC), in which one of the joystick movements is always followed by pain and the other movement is never followed by pain, and half in an unpredictable pain condition (UC), in which pain was delivered unpredictably. By varying the level of pain predictability, FMRP and CPRA were induced in PC and UC respectively. Colour stimuli were presented at the beginning of each trail. Half of the participants were verbally informed that the green or red colour indicated less painful stimuli (experimental groups), the other half did not receive any suggestion (control groups). We measured self-reported pain intensity, expectancy of pain intensity (PC only), pain related fear and anxiety (eyeblink startle response and self-ratings) and avoidance behaviour (movement-onset latency and duration). The results indicate that the placebo effect was successfully induced in both experimental conditions. In the PC, the placebo effect was predicted by expectancy. Despite the fact that FMRP and CPRA were successfully induced, no difference was found in the magnitude of the placebo effect between PC and UC. Concluding, we did not find a divergent effect of fear and anxiety on placebo analgesia.