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Papers of the Week

Papers: 9 Jan 2021 - 15 Jan 2021


Human Studies

2021 Jan 12

Sci Rep



Association of nocebo hyperalgesia and basic somatosensory characteristics in a large cohort.


Feldhaus M H, Horing B, Sprenger C, Büchel C
Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 12; 11(1):762.
PMID: 33436821.


Medical outcomes are strongly affected by placebo and nocebo effects. Prediction of who responds to such expectation effects has proven to be challenging. Most recent approaches to prediction have focused on placebo effects in the context of previous treatment experiences and expectancies, or personality traits. However, a recent model has suggested that basic somatosensory characteristics play an important role in expectation responses. Consequently, this study investigated not only the role of psychological variables, but also of basic somatosensory characteristics. In this study, 624 participants underwent a placebo and nocebo heat pain paradigm. Additionally, individual psychological and somatosensory characteristics were assessed. While no associations were identified for placebo responses, nocebo responses were associated with personality traits (e.g. neuroticism) and somatosensory characteristics (e.g. thermal pain threshold). Importantly, the associations between somatosensory characteristics and nocebo responses were among the strongest. This study shows that apart from personality traits, basic somatosensory characteristics play an important role in individual nocebo responses, in agreement with the novel idea that nocebo responses result from the integration of top-down expectation and bottom-up sensory information.