Role of conditioning and verbal suggestion in placebo and nocebo effects on itch.PLoS One. 2014; 9(3):e91727.Plos
Placebo and nocebo effects are known to play a key role in treatment effects in a wide variety of conditions. These effects have frequently been investigated with regard to pain and also in other physical sensations, but have hardly been investigated with regard to itch. In addition, neither in pain nor in any other physical sensation, the single and combined contribution of the expectancy mechanisms of conditioning and verbal suggestion have ever been investigated in both placebo and nocebo effects within one design. For the first time, the role of verbal suggestion and conditioning in placebo and nocebo effects on itch was experimentally investigated. Expectations about itch stimuli were induced in healthy subjects by verbal suggestion, conditioning, or a combination of both procedures, and compared with a control group without expectation induction. Itch was induced electrically by means of quantitative sensory testing. Significant placebo and nocebo effects were induced in the group in which combined procedures of conditioning and verbal suggestion were applied in comparison with the control group. The conditioning and verbal suggestion procedures applied individually did not induce significant placebo and nocebo effects when compared with the control group. The results of this study extend existing evidence on different physical sensations, like pain, by showing that also for itch, the combination of conditioning and verbal suggestion is most promising in inducing both placebo and nocebo effects. More research on placebo and nocebo effects at a perceptive and neurobiological level is warranted to further elucidate the common and specific mechanisms underlying placebo and nocebo effects on itch and other physical sensations.