Ethnic Differences in Experimental Pain Responses following a Paired Verbal Suggestion with Saline Infusion: A Quasiexperimental Study

Janelle E. Letzen, Troy C. Dildine, Chung Jung Mun, Luana Colloca, Stephen Bruehl, Claudia M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Ethnic differences in placebo and nocebo responses are an important, yet underresearched, patient factor that might contribute to treatment disparities. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine ethnic differences in pain trajectories following a verbal suggestion paired with a masked, inert substance (i.e., saline). Methods: Using a quasiexperimental design, we examined differences between 21 non-Hispanic Black (NHB) participants and 20 non-Hispanic White (NHW) participants in capsaicin-related pain rating trajectories following a nondirectional verbal suggestion + saline infusion. All participants were told that the substance would "either increase pain sensation, decrease it, or leave it unchanged."A spline mixed model was used to quantify the interaction of ethnicity and time on ratings. Results: There was a significant Ethnicity × Time interaction effect (β = -0.28, p =. 002); NHB individuals reported significantly greater increases in pain following, but not before, the verbal suggestion + saline infusion. Sensitivity analyses showed no change in primary results based on differences in education level, general pain sensitivity, or condition order. Conclusions: The present results showed ethnic differences in pain response trajectories following a verbal suggestion + saline infusion and suggest that future research rigorously examining possible ethnic differences in placebo/nocebo responses is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Ethnic difference
  • Experimental pain
  • Nocebo
  • Pain disparities
  • Placebo
  • Spline model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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