Placebo and Nocebo Effects: Basic Science and Implications for Clinical Trials and Clinical Practice

Monday, September 19th

About the Session


  • Lene Vase, PhD, DMSc (Denmark)
  • Tor Wager, PhD (USA)
  • Luana Colloca, MD PhD (USA)

During the last decade, psychological and neurobiological mechanisms underlying placebo and nocebo effects have been identified, and by now it is possible to outline how this knowledge may influence the design and outcome of clinical trials as well as to which extent these effects can be optimized in clinical practice in ethically appropriate ways.

In this refresher course, Wager will outline the state-of-the-art of psychological and neurobiological underpinnings of placebo effects including racial and ethnic disparities, and illustrate how to predict the individual differences in placebo responses in trials as well as discuss the relationship between placebo and other psychological interventions in clinical practice.

Colloca will give an overview of how nocebo effects are conceptualized across American and European populations and outline the latest knowledge of nocebo mechanisms, including racial differences, and discuss the ethical dilemmas of applying knowledge of placebo and nocebo effects to clinical practice.

Finally, Vase will illustrate how placebo and nocebo mechanisms may influence the outcome of clinical tests across pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions and suggest how this knowledge can be considered in the design and interpretation of experimental studies and clinical trials well as in the findings from clinical practice.