Lene Vase Professor and head of the Neuroscientific Division at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
Placebo effects across pharmacological, complementary and psychological interventions.
Only pharmacological treatments are obliged to show an effect beyond placebo to be approved for use in clinical practice. Yet, there is a pushing demand for complementary treatments, neuro-stimulating techniques and psychological interventions to demonstrate efficacy in rigorous ways. In a series of studies, carefully matched placebo control for the pain relieving effect of acupuncture, religious prayer, musical intervention, deep brain stimulation and mindfulness therapy was develop. Across interventions, patients rated expectations and emotional feelings and the involvement of endogenous opioid and dopamine was tested.
Results The majority of the interventions showed large placebo effects with no or small effects of the active intervention. Across interventions, expected pain levels accounted for increasingly larger amounts of the variance in pain levels over time and the involvement of endogenous opioids and dopamine was not demonstrated
Discussion Based on the knowledge of placebo mechanisms it is possible to develop precise and adequate placebo control for a range of interventions yielding new information about the placebo mechanisms that are distinct and similar across interventions.
Lene Vase received her PhD in psychology in 2006 and her DMsc in Medicine in 2018. She is currently professor and head of the Neuroscientific Division at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. Her research focuses on placebo effects across Central Nervous Diseases including Pain, Alzheimers’ and Parkinsons disease and span across pharmacological, complementary, psychological and surgical interventions. She has a special interest in how expectancy and reward influence treatment outcomes and she heads an international initiative on how to account for this in test methodology. She has published more than 70 articles and book chapters and given multiple presentations world-wide. She is currently Associate Editor on PAIN and part of the steering committee for the Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies.