Rosanne Smits is a PhD student at the Health, Medical, and Neuropsychology unit at Leiden University. Her project focuses on conditioning paradigms and placebo responses that affect immune responses. Main aim of her projects is to employ placebo mechanisms to reduce medication dosages in juvenile arthritis that ultimately result in lower side effects.
Her research project focuses on pharmacotherapeutic conditioning, in which placebo mechanisms like expectancy learning and associative learning (conditioning) can be employed in combination with pharmacological agents to optimize treatment effects and control for side effects. Children diagnosed with arthritis are especially suited from this approach as intolerance rates to methotrexate (MTX) have been reported in nearly half of the patients and cause for tremendous concern in treatment. This study specifically aims to reduce these side effects by administrating MTX through a variable reinforcement schedule and makes use of learned immune responses.