Health Psychophysiology: Placebo and Nocebo



Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semester 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

The subject aims to provide the students with recent knowledge on various aspects of the placebo phenomenon. The placebo phenomenon – both from theoretical and practical point of view – has become a hot research topic in the last 10-15 years, as it can be used as a model to understand the complex bio-psychosocial mechanisms of medical treatments. The ethical aspects of the therapeutic use of placebos has also been in the focus of professional discussion and debate recently. The most important topics to discuss are (1) history and definition issues; (2) the placebo in the light of the mind-body problem; (3) ethical issues in double-blind clinical trials and in the therapeutic use of placebos; (4) methodological issues and their solutions in placebo research; (5) major determinants of the placebo response (characteristics of the patient, the doctor, and the treatment; contextual and cultural factors); (6) placebo responses and their neurophysiological background in various medical conditions with special emphasis on pain, depression, and anxiety; (7) non-medical placebos (alcohol, caffeine, etc.); (8) the nocebo phenomenon and its practical importance; (9) proposed mechanisms of the placebo response (classical and social conditioning, expectancies, meaning response, etc.); (10) the placebo phenomenon from evolutionary perspective.

  • Benedetti, F. (2009). Placebo Effects: Understanding the Mechanisms in Health and Disease. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Benedetti, F. (2011). The patient’s brain. The neuroscience behind the doctor-patient relationship. New York: Oxford.
  • Köteles, F. (2013). A placebo-válasz. Budapest: Medicina Könyvkiadó Zrt.