Cognitive Schemas in Placebo and Nocebo Responding: Role of Autobiographical Memories and Expectations.Clin Ther. 2017 Mar; 39(3):502-512.e1.CT
Placebo effects are presumed to be based on one's expectations and previous experience with regard to a specific treatment. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of the specificity and valence of memories and expectations with regard to itch in experimentally induced placebo and nocebo itch responses. It was expected that cognitive schemas with more general and more negative memories and expectations with regard to itch contribute to less placebo itch responding.
Validated memory tasks (ie, the Autobiographical Memory Test and the Self-referential Endorsement and Recall Task) and expectation tasks (ie, Future Event Task and the Self-referential Endorsement and Recall Task) were modified for physical symptoms, including itch. Specificity and valence of memories and expectations were assessed prior to a placebo experiment in which expectations regarding electrical itch stimuli were induced in healthy participants.
Participants who were more specific in their memories regarding itch and who had lesser negative itch-related expectations for the future were more likely to be placebo itch responders. There were no significant differences in effects between the nocebo responders and nonresponders.
The adapted tasks for assessing cognitive (memory and expectations) schemas on itch seem promising in explaining interindividual differences in placebo itch responding. Future research should investigate whether similar mechanisms apply to patients with chronic itch. This knowledge can be used for identifying patients who will benefit most from the placebo component of a treatment.