Universiteit Leiden

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The nocebo effect: How expectations can make you sick

  • Luana Colloca
Friday 15 September 2017
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden

Recently, there has been a host of research over the past several decades that expanded our knowledge of the mysterious phenomenon we know as ‘the nocebo effect’.

Understanding its mechanisms from a psychoneurobiological viewpoint has permitted a better understanding of how nocebo effects can be minimized. The anticipation of side effects engages a complex set of neural circuits along with biochemical changes both in the peripheral tissues and in the central nervous system resulting in the occurrence and/or worsening of clinical outcomes.

Nocebo effects are formed through anticipation of adverse events, prior therapeutic unsuccessful experiences and observation of adverse events in others.  Susceptibility to the nocebo effect depends upon conscious and nonconscious processes, personality traits, psychological factors and genetic variants. Moreover, providers’ behaviors, environmental cues and the appearance of medical devices can induce nocebo effects that dramatically influence clinical outcomes in patients. Knowledge on the mechanisms of nocebo effects can definitely be valuable to daily clinical practice and psychological counselling.

This lecture is available for everyone!

Luana Colloca, MD, PhD Associate Professor, University of Maryland School of Nursing
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