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J Psychosom Res. 2016 Dec;91:9-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2016.09.012. Epub 2016 Sep 30.

Effectiveness of a placebo intervention on visually induced nausea in women - A randomized controlled pilot study.

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Institute of Medical Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany.
Institute for Diabetes and Obesity, Helmholtz Diabetes Center, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Munich, Germany; Division of Metabolic Diseases, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.
Institute of Medical Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany. Electronic address:



Improvement of nausea by placebo interventions has recently been demonstrated in clinical trials and experimental settings. However, many questions regarding placebo effects on nausea remain unanswered. For example, nausea reduction in women could only be achieved when the placebo intervention was "enhanced" by conditioning, while men responded primarily to verbally suggested improvement. It is unclear whether these findings are generalizable or were due to situational variables. In this pilot study, we investigated the effects of sham acupuncture point stimulation and verbal suggestions on visually-induced nausea in a female population.


In a within-subjects design, 21 healthy female volunteers underwent both a placebo condition and a natural history condition (control condition) in a randomized order on two separate days. On both days, nausea was induced through optokinetic stimulation. On the placebo day, participants received sham acupuncture point stimulation together with positive verbal suggestions of nausea improvement. Expected and perceived nausea severity as well as symptoms of motion sickness were repeatedly assessed.


Twenty participants completed both testing days. Participants developed significantly less nausea on the placebo day compared to the control day (p<0.001), and the effect size of placebo-induced nausea reduction was large (partial η2=0.71). Symptoms of motion sickness were also reduced (p=0.003). Expectation of nausea decreased following the placebo intervention as compared to no treatment (p=0.030), indicating successful expectancy manipulation.


Sham acupuncture point stimulation combined with verbal suggestions induced a significant placebo effect on visually-induced nausea in women.


Expectation; Motion sickness; Nausea; Placebo effect

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