Analgesia da placebo, anticipazione dolorifica e i possibili correlati neurali dell’effetto nocebo

Sara Palermo


Riassunto: L’effetto nocebo è l’effetto psicobiologico dovuto al contesto psicosociale negativo che accompagna una terapia. Dal momento che lo studio dell’anticipazione dolorifica prende in considerazione la fase temporale della “attesa dell’iperalgesia”, e considerando che – proprio come il nocebo – è possibile elicitarla con il solo uso di verbalizzazioni negative, questo modello può permettere di studiare la risposta nocebo. Ad oggi infatti non si dispone di dati univoci circa le aree coinvolte in questi processi e circa il ruolo cognitivo da queste ricoperto. Abbiamo condotto una meta-analisi su studi fMRI di anticipazione dolorifica su cui applicare un modello di connettività meta-analitica su due regioni di interesse: la corteccia cingolata e l’insula anteriori, le cui attivazioni sembrerebbero correlano ai domini comportamentali dell’azione, dell’emozione e della percezione. I risultati avvalorano l’ipotesi dell’esistenza di un sistema supramodale altamente distribuito, attivato dall’anticipazione del dolore, e, infine, volto all’elaborazione delle informazioni e all’auto-regolazione delle risposte adattive all’ambiente.

Parole chiave: Placebo; Nocebo; Dolore; Correlati neurali; Comportamento umano


Placebo Analgesia, Pain Anticipation, and the Possible Neural Correlates of Nocebo Effect

Abstract: The nocebo effect is a psychobiological effect that occurs when a negative psychosocial context that accompanies a therapy. Since the study of pain anticipation takes into account the temporal phase of the “expectation of hyperalgesia”, and considering that it is possible to stimulate such anticipatory processes merely through the use of negative verbalizations, this model is appropriate for studying the nocebo response. To date, there are no univocal data about the brain areas involved in these processes or their cognitive roles. We conducted a meta-analysis on pain anticipation fMRI studies. We then applied a meta-analytic connectivity model to activations in the anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula, which correlate with the behavioral domains of action, emotion and perception. Our results support the hypothesis that there is a highly-distributed supramodal system, activated by pain anticipation, for processing information that enhances the self-regulation of adaptive responses to the environment.

Keywords: Placebo; Nocebo; Pain; Neural Correlates; Human Behaviour

Parole chiave

Placebo; Nocebo; Dolore; Correlati neurali; Comportamento umano

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