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Plenary Sessions

Computational and Psychological mechanisms underlying Placebo Effects

Christian Büchel,

University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf Germany

Christian Büchel, Prof.

Chair and introduction

Christian Büchel is a Professor for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Director of the Department for Systems Neuroscience at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany.
He investigates how higher cognitive processes such as learning are anchored in functional connections of the brain. His lab is mainly interested in pain, fear and decision making. Christian aims to identify mechanisms behind these phenomena using a multi-level approach: analysis of behavior and autonomic responses, computational modeling of the underlying algorithmic and neural processes, multimodal neuroimaging (fMRI and EEG) of these processes, and pharmacological challenges to investigate the causal role of specific neurotransmitter systems. His work not only contributes to our understanding of basic neuroscience mechanisms, but also provides novel ideas and approaches in clinical neuroscience, which could eventually improve prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and disease progression assessment in neuropsychiatric disorders including chronic pain.

Twitter: @C_Buchel

Klaas Enno Stephan,

University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Klaas Enno Stephan, Prof.

Klaas Enno Stephan is a Professor for Translational Neuromodeling & Computational Psychiatry at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
His scientific work covers the entire translational pipeline, from the development of disease theories via the creation of computational methods to their application in clinical studies. One of his central goals is the development of clinically useful “computational assays” for psychiatry and psychosomatics. Based on generative models of brain activity and behavior, his hope is that such assays will support more precise diagnostics and individualized treatment recommendations, leading to a transformation of clinical practice and redefinition of mental diseases. His track record includes pathophysiological theories of schizophrenia, fatigue and depression, the development of open source and widely used computational tools (e.g., for investigating brain connectivity and Bayesian model selection) as well as numerous studies on psychiatric and psychosomatic disease mechanisms. 


Philipp Sterzer,
Prof. Dr. med.

Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Charité Campus Mitte, Berlin, Germany

Philipp Sterzer, Prof.

Philipp Sterzer is a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and a Professor of Psychiatry with a focus on Computational Neuroscience at the Charité in Germany.
He is dedicated to researching visual perception processes and their changes in mental disorders using functional imaging methods. Leveraging functional imaging methods such as tasl-based and resting-state fMRI, his work is specifically dedicated to the alteration of these visual perceptual processes in mental disorders, e.g. psychosis, depression, conduct disorder, and alcohol-use disorders. In his work, he also employs a predictive coding framework to understand his topics better.

Animal Models

Harald Engler,

Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology, Essen University Hospital, Germany

Harald Engler, Prof.

Chair and introduction

Harald Engler is a Professor for Behavioral Immunobiology at the Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology, Essen University Hospital in Germany. 
The focus of his translational research is in the field of behavioral immunobiology and psychoneuroendocrinology. Together with his research group, he focuses on functional interactions between the peripheral immune system and the central nervous system in animal and human experiments and investigates their importance for the control of behavior and mental processes. A particular focus is on afferent and efferent communication pathways and the influence of inflammation on cognitive and affective processes. The goal of his research is a better understanding of molecular and neurobiological mechanisms relevant for the maintenance of mental health and for the development of neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression or schizophrenia.


Asya Rolls,

Immunology and Center of Neuroscience at Technion within the Israel Institute of Technology

Asya Rolls, PhD

Aysa Rolls is a psychoneuroimmunologist, International Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and an Associate Professor at the Immunology and Center of Neuroscience at Technion within the Israel Institute of Technology. 

The focus of her team is to explore how the nervous system affects immune responses and thus physical health. Her recent work has highlighted how the brain's reward system is implicated in the placebo response and how brain-immune interactions can be harnessed to find and destroy tumors.

Website: Rolls Lab – Technion | Asya Rolls, PhD

Gregory Corder,

Department of Psychiatry and Department of Neuroscience, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Gregory Corder, PhD

Gregory Corder is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Department of Neuroscience, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Gregory’s research has aimed to uncover how brain and spinal cord circuitry converts emotionally sluggish nociceptive information into an affective painful experience. He has based his scientific interest on studying the fundamental properties of nerve circuits and how best to advance translational efforts to develop novel strategies for clinical pain relief. Gergory’s group is taking a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to advance our understanding of how brain processes give rise to perceptions and motivations caused by endogenous and exogenous opioids in the brain's limbic and cortical circuits. The aim of their projects is to improve the mental, physical and social health of patients with chronic pain.

Website: Corder . Lab @ PENN 

Sydney Trask,

Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, USA

Sydney Trask, PhD

Sydney Trask is an Assistant Professor for Neuroscience and Behavior at the Department of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University in the US.
She is interested in the ways the brain encodes, stores, retrieves, and updates memory, particularly in understanding memory for context, or the environment in which events take place. „Successful encoding and retrieval of context allows us to select and guide our behavior in a way that encourages situationally appropriate responding. However, alterations in this type of learning and memory are common in symptomology that underlies several neuropsychiatric disorders, ranging from PTSD to age-related dementia. Understanding how memory for context is formed, retrieved, and altered at both the circuit and molecular level, will provide one crucial step forward to treatments aimed at reducing maladaptive behaviors stemming from contextually inappropriate behaviors.

Twitter: @Sydney_Trask

Placebo in Clinical Trials: Challenges and Future Avenues

Lene Vase,

Aarhus University, Denmark

Lene Vase, Prof.

Chair and introduction

Lene Vase is a Professor for Neuroscientific Psychology at Aarhus University in Denmark. 
Her focus is on pain modulation in the central nervous system and the evidence of pain therapy. With her group, her work primarily focuses on correlations between psychological, neurological and biological factors, placebo and nocebo effects in particular. She studies psycho-neuro-biological relations across disorders of the central nervous system, for instance chronic pain, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, and across pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions such as surgery, deep brain stimulation, acupuncture, psychotherapy, music, hypnosis, and animal-assisted therapy. Focusing on contextual effects, she has „the opportunity to understand how patients' thoughts and emotions can influence treatment outcomes, so hopefully they can be treated even better.


Luana Colloca,

University of Maryland, School of Nursing, USA

Luana Colloca, PhD

Luana Colloca is an MPower Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland in the School of Nursing in the US. 
Luana leads a research portfolio exploring endogenous pain perception, processing, and modulation in which the expectancy of analgesic relief, which can actually activate endogenous systems, is explored from a psychoneurobiological perspective from genetics to brain imaging. This also includes placebo/nocebo effects and other nonpharmacological interventions such as virtual reality. Her work on the neurobiological mechanisms of placebo and nocebo effects with an multifaced approach, including psychopharmacological, neurobiological and behavioral approaches, raises the possibility of unfolding the mechanisms of expectancy-induced analgesia with potential implications for pain management.

Twitter: @Colloca_Luana

Nanna Finnerup,

Danish Pain Research Center in the Department of Clinical Medicine,  Aarhus University, Denmark

Nanna Finnerup, Prof.

Nanna Finnerup is a Professor for Pain Research at the Danish Pain Research Center in the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University in Denmark. 
Her main interest is the pathophysiology and therapy of neuropathic pain. Nanna seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms associated with pain caused by nerve injury. Current research areas include spinal cord injury pain, chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain, painful diabetic polyneuropathy, postsurgical neuropathic pain, thermal sensory integration, neurophysiological assessment of pain mechanisms, placebo mechanisms, as well as neuropharmacology.  For example, she studies genetic factors that may increase the risk of developing neuropathic pain caused by nerve injury, the aim being, in time, to contribute to design of precision medicine.

Twitter: @nannafinnerup

Patient-Physician Interaction / Communication

Andrea Evers,

Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands

Andrea Evers, Prof.

Chair and introduction

Andrea Evers is a Professor for Health Psychology at the Institute of Psychology at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
Her research focuses on psychoneurobiological factors, such as stress and expectations, in health and disease. She has a specific interest in the psychoneurobiology of somatic complaints (e.g., pain and itch) and conditions (e.g., chronic inflammatory conditions), with particular emphasis on placebo effects, stress mechanisms, and treatments. Her research group conducts both fundamental research on the psychoneurobiology of placebo and stress mechanisms and translational research on screening and self-management or cognitive-behavioral interventions for healthy populations and chronic somatic conditions.

Twitter: @AndreaEvers

Vitaly Napadow,

Harvard Medical School, USA

Vitaly Napadow, PhD

Vitaly Napadow is a Professor for Radiology at Harvard Medical School in the US. 
Somatosensory, cognitive, and affective factors all influence the malleable experience of chronic pain, and Vitaly’s Lab has applied human functional and structural neuroimaging to localize and suggest mechanisms by which different brain circuitries modulate pain perception. His neuroimaging research also aims to better understand how non-pharmacological therapies, from acupuncture and transcutaneous neuromodulation to cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness meditation training, ameliorate aversive perceptual states such as pain. 

Twitter: @VitalyNapadow

Karin Jensen,

Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Sweden

Karin Jensen, Prof.

Karin Jensen is an Associate Professor for Clinical Neuroscience at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. 
Her research group focuses on brain mechanisms involved in the experience of pain and placebo effects. Karin‘s work has challenged existing models of the placebo effect and contributed novel scientific data demonstrating that (a) placebos work outside of conscious awareness, (b) placebos work among patients with severe intellectual disabilities, and (c) placebo effects are shaped by subtle social cues between a patient and health-care provider. Karin adopts an evolutionary perspective of the placebo effect and studies placebos in previously understudied contexts such as psychotherapy, surgery and intellectual disability.


Liesbeth van Vliet,

Department of Health, Medical and Neuropsychology,  Leiden University, The Netherlands

Liesbeth van Vliet, Prof.

Liesbeth Van Vlieth is an Assistant Professor for Health, Medical and Neuropsychology at the Department of Health, Medical and Neuropsychology at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
She studies how communication can heal and harm when patients are confronted with a serious, life-threatening illness. To do so, she combines insights from communication, palliative care, and placebo- / nocebo-effect research. Liesbeth is interested in the evidence-base of various communication elements, ranging from information-provision to clinician-expressed empathy. Most of her research focusses on oncology, but she also has expertise in the domains of neurology and pediatric palliative care. She is experienced in a range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies; from experimental video-vignette designs, observational studies, to clinical RCTs.

Twitter: @Liesbeth_vVliet

Placebos beyond the horizon (but not under control of the media)

Chris Beedie,
Prof. hon

University of Kent, UK

Chris Beedie, Prof. hon.

Chris Beedie is an Honorary Professor for Cognition and Neuroscience at the University of Kent in the UK. 
His research focuses on interoceptive processes in human performance and health, specifically those resulting from interactions with social and environmental factors. Chris investigates explicit and implicit self-regulatory processes such as emotion, mood, self-control and placebo effects. Having a background in sports science and physiology alongside psychology and neuroscience, he examines these processes from an interdisciplinary perspective. His current work is in collaboration with experts in anthropology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and physiology. Their main research questions center on when and how the brain and body respond positively to the mere suggestion of a performance-enhancing or psychoactive substance, even in the absence of any biologically active ingredients.


Alia Crum,

Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences, USA

Alia Crum, PhD

Alia Crum is an Associate Professor for Psychology and Medicine at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences in the US.
Her research focuses on how changes in subjective mindsets - the lenses through which information is perceived, organized, and interpreted - can alter objective reality through behavioral, psychological, and physiological mechanisms. Her work is also inspired by research on the placebo effect, a remarkable and consistent demonstration of the ability of the mindset to elicit healing properties in the body. She is interested in understanding how such mindsets affect important outcomes outside the realm of medicine, in the domains of behavioral health and organizational behavior. More specifically, she aims to understand how mindsets can be consciously and deliberately changed through intervention to affect organizational and individual performance, physiological and psychological well-being, and interpersonal effectiveness.


Social Aspects of Placebo Effects

Ben Colagiuri,

University of Sydney, Australia

Ben Colagiuri, PhD

Chair and introduction

Ben Colagiuri is a Professor for Psychology in the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney in Australia. 
His research explores how expectations influence human behavior. The majority of his research focuses on placebo and nocebo effects, with a special interest in placebo effects in randomized controlled trials and whether warning patients about side effects increases their occurrence or severity. Other interests include research methodology, psycho-oncology, and complementary medicine. To date, he has developed a number of novel experimental models to uncover the mechanisms of placebo and nocebo effects for pain, sleep, nausea, and related conditions. His current work is exploring how knowledge about placebo and nocebo effects could be used ethically to improve patient outcomes.

Twitter: @BenColagiuri

Siri Leknes,

University of Oslo, Norway

Siri Leknes, Prof.

Siri Leknes is a Professor for Social and Affective Neuroscience at the University of Oslo in Norway.
The Leknes Affective Brain lab (LAB lab) studies how the brain and body give rise to pleasurable and painful feelings, and how these feelings are connected to decisions and behavior. One interdisciplinary project centered on the benefits of acute pain. LAB lab's main methodology is experimental psychopharmacology in healthy humans, often centered on understanding how opioids modulate pain and pleasure. In addition, the LAB lab studies modulation of pleasure and pain in opioid-treated clinical populations with and without chronic pain and substance use disorder. They currently study state-dependent effects of opioids and their relation to social support, stress and dopamine.

Twitter: @sirileknes

Przemyslaw Babel,

Institute for Psychology, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland

Przemyslaw Babel, Prof.

Przemysław Bąbel is a Professor of Psychology at the Institute of Psychology of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.
Przemysław conducts research on learning mechanisms of placebo effects on pain, pain memory, and psychological factors that alter pain perception. He is involved in the application of behavior analysis and memory psychology in education and therapy fields, including the treatment of chronic pain and people on the autism spectrum. With his team and collaborators, he is developing a theoretical framework of the learning theory of placebo effects.

Twitter: @PrzemyslawBabel

Claus Lamm,

Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Austria

Claus Lamm, Prof.

Claus Lamm is a Professor of Biological Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Vienna in Austria. 
Claus' research examines the psychological and biological mechanisms of social cognition and emotion. Apart from advancing insights into the neural and psychological foundations of social cognition and behavior, his goal is to foster a thriving interdisciplinary research environment that will lead to innovative and cutting-edge research in the domain of Social Cognitive Neuroscience. His scientific interests focuses on the neural underpinnings of empathy and prosocial behavior. This includes recent multi-modal investigations combining neuroimaging with psychopharmacology and psychoneuroendocrinology, as well as comparative approaches to test empathy and its precursors in ravens and dogs.

Twitter: @ClausLamm

OLP Session Critical evaluation: Pro/Con/Mechanism

Ulrike Bingel,

University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Ulrike Bingel, Prof.

Chair and introduction

Ulrike Bingel is a Professor for Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. 
Ulrike’s research focuses on systems neuroscience and particularly on the interface between pain processing of the central nervous system and cognitive neuroscience. Her work has revealed critical insights into the neurobiological basis of placebo and nocebo responses, their interaction with active pharmacological treatments and implications of these findings for clinical practice. Leveraging behavioral paradigms, pharmacological modulations, as well as functional and structural brain imaging and being particularly intrigued by the reciprocal effects of pain and cognition, she and her group have a strong focus on translational questions such as the role of expectations and prior experiences on analgesic treatment outcomes.

Twitter: @bingellab

Julia Haas,
Dr. rer. nat.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, USA

Julia Haas, Dr.

Julia Haas is a clinical psychologist, therapist and postdoctoral researcher at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard Medical School in the US. 
Her research interests include placebo effects in mental health and psychosomatic conditions (e.g., insomnia and depression) as well as their underlying psychosocial placebo mechanisms. She is specifically involved in research on open-label placebos in irritable-bowel syndrome and studies comparing the effectivity of deceptive vs. honest placebos.

John Kelley,

Harvard Medical School,

John Kelley, PhD

John Kelley is Deputy Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School and Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Endicott College. He is also a past president of the Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies. Professor Kelley and his colleagues investigate placebo and nocebo effects in medical and psychiatric disorders, with a particular focus on patient-clinician communication, the therapeutic relationship, and the role of expectancies in healthcare outcomes. His more recent research interests include open-label placebo and authorized concealment, which have the potential to reduce medication doses and decrease side effects, and perhaps even ameliorate the opioid crisis.

Website: Program in Placebo Studies & Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS)

Ted Kaptchuk,

Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, USA

Ted Kaptchuk, PhD

Ted J. Kaptchuk is a Professor of Medicine and of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School in the US.  
Ted’s career has spanned multiple disciplines, drawing upon concepts, research designs and analytical methods from the humanities and basic and clinical and social sciences. He investigates the impact of placebos in various illnesses, the neurobiology of placebo effects, the experience of patients being treated by placebo, open-label placebos, and various psychological, cultural, sociological and philosophical dimensions of placebos. Furthermore, he is doing theoretical work on the histories of placebo controls and the placebo effect, and significant ethical analyses of the use of placebos in clinical practice and research.

Recent updates as of 03/02/2023