Placebo forte: ways to maximize unspecific treatment effects

Med Hypotheses. 2012 Jun;78(6):744-51. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.02.022. Epub 2012 Mar 23.


Placebo effects spark more and more interest in both medicine and psychotherapy. Neurobiological findings have helped to understand underlying biochemical and neurological mechanisms although many questions remain to be answered. One common denominator of empirical findings regarding placebo effects across a wide range of clinical conditions (e.g., depression, Parkinson's disease, pain, neurological disorders) is the involvement of higher cognitive brain functions associated with the prefrontal cortex. It is meanwhile commonly accepted that placebo effects involve self-regulatory mechanisms whose role in mediating those effects have not been thoroughly investigated yet. We propose a theoretical framework which helps to identify relevant functional mechanisms. Drawing on psychological findings, we propose a mechanism by which placebo effects can be maximized in any type of medical and psychotherapeutic setting.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Placebo Effect*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*