Disgust regulation via placebo: an fMRI study

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Abstract

The present fMRI study investigated whether placebo treatment can change disgust feelings. Disgust-prone women underwent a retest design where they were presented with disgusting, fear-eliciting and neutral pictures once with and once without a placebo (inert pill presented with the suggestion that it can reduce disgust symptoms). The placebo provoked a strong decrease of experienced disgust, which was accompanied by reduced insula activation. Exploratory psychophysiological interaction analyses revealed decreased connectivity in a network consisting of the insula, the amygdala, the anterior cingulate cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex. Moreover, the placebo increased amygdala–DMPFC coactivation. Our findings suggest that placebo use can modulate a specific affective state and might be an option as a first therapy step for clinical samples characterized by excessive and difficult-to-control disgust feelings.

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