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Placebo Analgesia From a Rubber Hand

Coleshill, Matthew J.; George, David N.; Mazzoni, Giuliana


Matthew J. Coleshill

Giuliana Mazzoni


© 2017 American Pain Society Placebo analgesia, reductions in pain after administration of an inert treatment, is a well documented phenomenon. We report, to our knowledge, the first demonstration that placebo analgesia can be experienced when a sham analgesic is applied onto a rubber hand. The effect was obtained by exploiting the rubber hand illusion, in which ownership is felt over a rubber arm that is unattached to the body. Under conditions of synchronous as well as asynchronous visuotactile stimulation, a thermal pain stimulus was delivered on the real arm of 20 participants and seemingly also on the rubber arm, before and after applying a sham analgesic and a control cream only to the rubber arm. During synchronous visuotactile stimulation, pain was experienced on the rubber arm, and the application of the sham analgesic to the rubber arm significantly decreased the severity of reported pain. This shows that experience of the body can modulate expectations and the induction of placebo analgesia. Perspective This article presents an experiment suggesting that a placebo treatment applied to a rubber hand during the rubber hand illusion can produce placebo analgesia . This finding indicates that embodiment may influence the placebo effect, a previously unexamined factor in the treatment process with potential applications to treatment administration.


Coleshill, M. J., George, D. N., & Mazzoni, G. (2017). Placebo Analgesia From a Rubber Hand. Journal of Pain, 18(9), 1067-1077.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 10, 2017
Online Publication Date Apr 26, 2017
Publication Date 2017-09
Deposit Date Jun 20, 2017
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal The journal of pain
Print ISSN 1526-5900
Electronic ISSN 1528-8447
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 9
Pages 1067-1077
Keywords Placebo effect; Placebo analgesia; Rubber hand illusion; Body ownership; Embodiment
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Placebo Analgesia From a Rubber Hand; Journal Title: The Journal of Pain; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2017 by the American Pain Society


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