I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 May 2024 - 24 May 2024

2024 May 16

Biol Psychol


The role of self-reported and physiological stress in nocebo hyperalgesia.


Skvortsova A, Meeuwis SH, Derksen S, Kerkkänen K, Sutter E, Awm E, Veldhuijzen DS


Negative expectations can increase pain sensitivity, leading to nocebo hyperalgesia. However, the physiological and psychological factors that predispose individuals to this phenomenon are still not well understood. The present study examined whether stress induced by a social stressor affects nocebo hyperalgesia, and whether this effect is mediated by self-reported and physiological stress responses. We recruited 52 healthy participants (15 men) who were randomly assigned to either the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) or a control condition (a friendly version of the TSST). Nocebo hyperalgesia was induced using negative suggestions combined with a validated pain conditioning paradigm. We assessed self-reported (anxiety and stress) and physiological (cortisol, alpha-amylase, heart rate, and skin conductance) responses to stress. Both groups exhibited significant nocebo hyperalgesia. The stress group showed higher levels of anxiety, self-reported stress, and cortisol levels compared to the control group while no significant differences were found in other physiological markers. The stress and control groups did not differ in the magnitude of nocebo hyperalgesia, but anxiety levels partially mediated the effects of the stress test on nocebo hyperalgesia. Our findings suggest that an external social stressor does not directly affect nocebo hyperalgesia, but that increased anxiety due to the stressor enhances its magnitude. Thus, it may be worthwhile to investigate whether reducing stress-related anxiety in clinical settings would help alleviate nocebo effects.