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Gender differences in placebo analgesia: event-related potentials and emotional modulation.

Aslaksen PM, et al. Psychosom Med. 2011 Feb-Mar.


OBJECTIVES: To examine whether there are gender differences in event-related potential (ERP) responses to painful stimulation after administration of placebo medication; and to investigate whether placebo medication reduces anticipatory stress and if this reduction can explain the placebo analgesic response. Several experimental and clinical studies have shown that males report lower pain compared with females. There are, however, few reports of gender differences in placebo analgesia.

METHODS: All subjects (n = 33; 17 women) participated in both a natural history and a placebo condition. ERPs were evoked by heat pulses with a peak at 52 °C.

RESULTS: The results showed that pain unpleasantness and the N2/P2 ERP components were reduced in the placebo condition compared with the natural history condition. Only men displayed placebo responses in pain report and in the P2 component. Anticipatory stress was reduced after placebo administration, and the reduction in anticipatory stress was significantly related to the placebo effect on pain. Regression analyses revealed that the interaction of gender by anticipatory stress was significantly related to the mean placebo response, with men responding with lower stress after placebo medication, and larger placebo responses.

CONCLUSIONS: A placebo response on pain unpleasantness was observed in men only, and reduced stress after placebo administration was observed in males only. Thus, reduced stress may be a mechanism for placebo responses in pain.


21217098 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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