Personality Trait Predictors of Placebo Analgesia and Neurobiological Correlates

Nature: 11/16/12

Personality traits have been shown to interact with environmental cues to modulate biological responses including treatment responses, and potentially having a role in the formation of placebo effects. Here, we assessed psychological traits in 50 healthy controls as to their capacity to predict placebo analgesic effects, placebo-induced activation of μ-opioid neurotransmission and changes in cortisol plasma levels during a sustained experimental pain challenge (hypertonic saline infused in the masseter muscle) with and without placebo administration. Statistical analyses showed that an aggregate of scores from Ego-Resiliency, NEO Altruism, NEO Straightforwardness (positive predictors) and NEO Angry Hostility (negative predictor) scales accounted for 25% of the variance in placebo analgesic responses. Molecular imaging showed that subjects scoring above the median in a composite of those trait measures also presented greater placebo-induced activation of μ-opioid neurotransmission in the subgenual and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex, insula, nucleus accumbens, amygdala and periaqueductal gray (PAG). Read more