Nocebo Effects and Scratching Behaviour on Itch
Danielle J.P. Bartels, Antoinette I.M. van Laarhoven, Peter C.M. van de Kerkhof, Andrea W.M. Evers
Nocebo effects, i.e. reduced treatment effects due to patients’ negative expectations, play a role in itch. Recent studies have shown that nocebo effects can be induced experimentally on itch and also be minimized and even turned into the opposite direction, i.e. placebo effects. It is not known whether these effects generalize to itch-associated scratching behaviour. The aim of this study was to determine whether induction and reversal of nocebo effects on itch evoked by electrical and histamine stimuli generalized to scratching. Ninety-seven healthy participants were included in the study. The manipulation was successful, as during the nocebo learning phase, increased scratching responses were found for higher intensity compared with lower intensity itch stimuli. During the testing phase of induction or reversal of the nocebo effects, however, no significant nocebo effects or reversed nocebo effects, were found in scratching. Thus, no straightforward generalization of nocebo effects from itch to scratching was found in this laboratory setting. Further investigation into possible generalization is needed in different settings and in patients with chronic itch.