Evidence for Cognitive Placebo and Nocebo Effects in Healthy Individuals
Inactive interventions can have significant effects on cognitive performance. Understanding the generation of these cognitive placebo/nocebo effects is crucial for evaluating the cognitive impacts of interventional methods, such as non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS). We report both cognitive placebo and nocebo effects on reward-based learning performance induced using an active sham NIBS protocol, verbal suggestions and conditioning in 80 healthy participants. Whereas our placebo manipulation increased both expected and perceived cognitive performance, nocebo had a detrimental effect on both. Model- based analysis suggests manipulation-specific strategic adjustments in learning-rates: Participants in the placebo group showed stronger learning from losses and reduced behavioral noise, whereas in the nocebo group stronger learning from gains and increased behavioral noise. We conclude that experimentally induced expectancy can impact cognitive functions of healthy adult participants. This has important implications for the use of double-blind study designs that can effectively maintain blinding in NIBS studies.
Source at https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/87kea.