Atlas_Lauren 12_14_FINAL V.-2

Lauren Atlas
NCCIH Investigator & Chief of the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain, National Institutes of Health, United States of America.

Dissociating psychological and neural components of placebo and expectancy-based modulation.

It has long been understood that placebo effects and expectancy-based modulation depend on a combination of factors, including cognitive beliefs, conditioning or associative learning, and contextual factors such as the patient-provider relationship. In this talk, I will present a series of studies that combine experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience to dissociate these components. I will present work that directly compares stimulus expectancies and treatment expectancies, and isolates their underlying neural substrates. We find that both stimulus and expectancy effects influence acute pain, and that there are interactions between the two types of expectations.  I will also address work dissociating instructions and conditioning, and new findings on patient-provider relationships. Together, this work demonstrates how we can systematically manipulate and measure the various factors that underlie placebo analgesia to better understand the placebo effect and how to maximize patient outcomes.



Lauren Atlas is a Tenure-Track Clinical Investigator at the National Institutes of Health. She is Chief of the Section on Affective Neuroscience and Pain in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and holds a joint appointment with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Her laboratory integrates experimental psychology, neuroimaging, psychophysiology, and computational approaches to understand how expectations and other cognitive and affective factors influence pain, emotional experience, and clinical outcomes. Current projects focus on dissociating components of expectancy, relating pain with other types of hedonic affective responses, and understanding social influences on pain. Long–term goals include revealing how specific features of the clinical context and interpersonal aspects influence patient outcomes, as well as determining whether expectancy–based processing is altered in specific patient populations.  Dr. Atlas received her PhD in Psychology from Columbia University, and completed postdoctoral training at New York University.