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The role of expectation and experience in pain perception

Prof. Dr. Christian Büchel, Institut für Systemische Neurowissenschaften Hamburg
on October 8, 2015


Expectation and experience effects generally play a very important role in perception. In many sensory modalities, the role of expectations plays a very important role and there are cases in which perception is shaped more by expectations than by the stimuli themselves. Pain plays a special role as a sensory modality, as it indicates a threatening tissue damage. Despite its high priority, this sense can also be strongly influenced by expectation effects. In the context of pain and therapy this effect is also called placeboanalgesia. Initially dismissed as “psychogenic”, recent studies have shown that this effect is based on measurable biological mechanisms. This lecture dealt with the basics of pain processing and the influence of expectation effects. Particular attention was paid to the role of endorphins and placebo-induced modulation in the spinal cord.

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