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Laterality of pain: modulation by placebo and participants' paranormal belief


Klemenz, C; Regard, M; Brugger, P; Emch, O (2009). Laterality of pain: modulation by placebo and participants' paranormal belief. Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, 22(3):186-189.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of placebo and paranormal belief on the laterality of pain perception. BACKGROUND: The right hemisphere is dominantly involved in both the mediation of pain sensation and the belief in paranormal phenomena. We set out to assess a possible influence of long-term belief systems on placebo analgesia in response to unilateral nociceptive stimuli. METHOD: Forty healthy participants (20 high and 20 low believers as indexed by the Magical Ideation Scale) underwent a placebo analgesia study measuring stimulus detection, pain threshold, and pain tolerance by electrostimulation on the right and left hand. Placebo treatment consisted of the application of a sham cream on the hands. RESULTS: Placebo had a positive influence on pain perception in the 3 variables. Enhanced pain sensitivity for the left side was only found for the disbelievers. Placebo treatment resulted in a double dissociation: in believers, it increased tolerance exclusively on the left side, in disbelievers on the right side. CONCLUSIONS: Our results confirm laterality effects in pain perception. However, only disbelievers conformed to the expected higher left-sided sensitivity. Placebo effects were dissociated between believers and disbelievers suggesting that short-term reactions to a placebo are modulated by a person's long-term belief system.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of placebo and paranormal belief on the laterality of pain perception. BACKGROUND: The right hemisphere is dominantly involved in both the mediation of pain sensation and the belief in paranormal phenomena. We set out to assess a possible influence of long-term belief systems on placebo analgesia in response to unilateral nociceptive stimuli. METHOD: Forty healthy participants (20 high and 20 low believers as indexed by the Magical Ideation Scale) underwent a placebo analgesia study measuring stimulus detection, pain threshold, and pain tolerance by electrostimulation on the right and left hand. Placebo treatment consisted of the application of a sham cream on the hands. RESULTS: Placebo had a positive influence on pain perception in the 3 variables. Enhanced pain sensitivity for the left side was only found for the disbelievers. Placebo treatment resulted in a double dissociation: in believers, it increased tolerance exclusively on the left side, in disbelievers on the right side. CONCLUSIONS: Our results confirm laterality effects in pain perception. However, only disbelievers conformed to the expected higher left-sided sensitivity. Placebo effects were dissociated between believers and disbelievers suggesting that short-term reactions to a placebo are modulated by a person's long-term belief system.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neurology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:23 Nov 2009 13:51
Last Modified:06 Dec 2017 21:54
Publisher:Lippincott Wiliams & Wilkins
ISSN:1543-3633
Additional Information:This is a non-final version of an article published in final form in Cognitive and behavioral neurology : official journal of the Society for Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1097/WNN.0b013e3181b27aeb
PubMed ID:19741329

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