Pain Modulation: From Conditioned Pain Modulation to Placebo and Nocebo Effects in Experimental and Clinical Pain

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2018:139:255-296. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2018.07.024. Epub 2018 Aug 14.


Accumulating evidence reveal important applications of endogenous pain modulation assessment in healthy controls and in patients in clinical settings, as dysregulations in the balance of pain modulatory circuits may facilitate pain and promote chronification of pain. This article reviews data on pain modulation, focusing on the mechanisms and translational aspects of pain modulation from conditioned pain modulation (CPM) to placebo and nocebo effects in experimental and clinical pain. The specific roles of expectations, learning, neural and neurophysiological mechanisms of the central nervous system are briefly reviewed herein. The interaction between CPM and placebo systems in pain inhibitory pathways is highly relevant in the clinic and in randomized controlled trials yet remains to be clarified. Examples of clinical implications of CPM and its relationship to placebo and nocebo effects are provided. A greater understanding of the role of pain modulation in various pain states can help characterize the manifestation and development of chronic pain and assist in predicting the response to pain-relieving treatments. Placebo and nocebo effects, intrinsic to every treatment, can be used to develop personalized therapeutic approaches that improve clinical outcomes while limiting unwanted effects.

Keywords: Chronic pain; Conditioned pain modulation; Diffuse noxious inhibitory control; Nocebo effect; Pain inhibition; Placebo effect.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nocebo Effect*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Management* / psychology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Placebos / therapeutic use*


  • Placebos