Andrea Evers

Andrea Evers
Professor of Health Psychology and chair of the unit of Health, Medical and Neuropsychology, Leiden University, Netherlands. And affiliated to the Leiden University Medical Centre and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition.

Use of placebo for innovative treatment strategies in somatic conditions

Physical complaints, such as pain or itch, can be effectively altered by placebo and nocebo effects due to induction of positive or negative expectations. The major clinical challenge remains whether experimentally laboratory findings of induced physical complaints, such as pain or itch,  of short duration in healthy subjects can be generalized to patients in a clinical setting and used as therapeutic strategies to improve treatment outcomes.  There is some preliminary evidence that patients with chronic physical complaints, for example of itch or pain, are more sensitive to expectation learning processes, in a way that expectations regarding the physical sensations elicit stronger patterns of nocebo or placebo responses in patients compared to healthy subjects.

Treatment outcomes might be maximized by making optimally use of placebo effects in clinical practice, by using both conscious and automatic strategies of optimizing expectancy effects, for example, by applying conditioning principles for therapy adherence, adjusting environmental cues to the preferred outcome or replacing regular pharmacological treatments partly by expectancy interventions. Moreover, the role of individual characteristics in placebo and nocebo responsiveness can be used to personalize interventions and to optimize treatment outcomes.  This knowledge can help improve therapeutic interventions by enhancing adequate favorable expectations and reducing exaggerated unfavorable expectations in patients suffering from chronic somatic conditions.

 

Biosketch

Evers is full professor of Health Psychology at Leiden University and chair of the unit of Health, Medical and Neuropsychology. She is affiliated to the Leiden University Medical Centre and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition. Evers graduated (PhD) Cum Laude and obtained several personal awards and highly prestigious grants for her innovative, interdisciplinary and translational research on psychoneurobiological mechanisms and treatments for somatic conditions. She has received several grants for excellent researchers, including an NWO VENI (2004) and VIDI grant (2009), Aspasia (2010) as well as ERC Consolidator grant (2014) and an ERC Proof of Concept grant (2015) as well as awards, such as the PB Boeke Prijs (2004), Goslingsprijs (2004) and the Herman Musaph Award (2012) for her research group. In 2011 she became professor of Psychobiology of somatic conditions at Radboud university medical centre and founder and chair of the interdisciplinary Radboud expert centre of Psychology & Medicine. In 2014, she became Professor of Health Psychology at Leiden University and chair of the department Health, Medical and Neuropsychology. In 2013, she was elected as a member of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW).

She currently is co-chair of the Interdisciplinary trace of the Young Academy of the KNAW. Evers also has diverse clinical registrations: she is registered as Clinical Psychologist (BIG), supervisor Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and Healthcare Psychologist (BIG). She is member of the editorial (advisory) board of various international journals, such as Pain, Itch, European Journal of Pain and International Journal of Psychology. Evers is member of the international Board IASP (International Association for the Study of Pain) SIG (Special Interest Group) on PLACEBO (since 2012). She was also a cofounder of the international placebo society SIPS (Society of Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies) in 2014 and is scientific chair of the first official world conferences of the SIPS in Leiden, 2017.