ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2015, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (5): 822-835.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2015.00822

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The Opposite Twins: Mechanisms Underlying Placebo/Nocebo Effect in Pain

DENG Xiaofei1,2; LUO Fei1; GUO Jianyou1   

  1. (1 Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China) (2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China)
  • Received:2014-12-03 Online:2015-05-15 Published:2015-05-15
  • Contact: GUO Jianyou, E-mail:


Expectation can bidirectionally regulate diseases or sensory experiences. In terms of pain field, positive expectation alleviates pain (i.e., placebo effect); while negative expectation makes it worse (i.e., nocebo effect). So far, most of researches on placebo and nocebo effect mainly come from the field of pain. Interestingly, although placebo and nocebo share similar psychological processes in modulating pain, the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the placebo and nocebo are different. Placebo analgesia might be involved with endogenous opioids system. On the contrary, the nocebo effect is considered to be mediated by cholecystokinin (CCK). In addition, brain imaging researches suggested that placebo and nocebo could lead to contrary activation patterns in pain-related networks. Some areas such as the hippocampus were specifically activated in nocebo condition.

Key words: expectation, placebo, nocebo, pain