Christian Büchel
Professor of Systems Neuroscience, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

How expectations shape pain perception

Expectation and experience can shape pain perception in a powerful way. However, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects are still unknown. This talk will focus on potential mechanisms of how expectations can increase (nocebo hyperalgesia) or decrease (placebo hypoalgesia) pain perception. The focus will be on a conceptual framework which posits that pain perception can be seen as the integration (in a Bayesian sense) of expectation (i.e. prior) and incoming data (i.e. stimulus). Importantly, this framework leads to testable hypotheses (e.g. the variance of the expectation should reduce the influence of expectation).


Christian Büchel is a full professor of Systems Neuroscience and Head of the Department of Systems Neuroscience at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. He graduated from Heidelberg University as MD. His scientific career continued as a Wellcome Research Fellow at the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience at UCL in London. From there he moved to Hamburg and headed a research group funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. He is the current director of the Neuroimaging Center NeuroImage Nord and holder of major research grants from the European Research Council, German Research Foundation (DFG), and German Ministry for Science and Volkswagen Foundation. His main scientific interests are the interplay of cognition, pain and emotion with an emphasis on emotional learning in health and disease. He is a member of the Hamburg Academy of Science. Christian Büchel has published more than 150 peer reviewed research articles and was awarded the Jung Award for Medicine, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Preis by the German Research Foundation, and the Wiley Young Investigator Award of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping for recognition of his work on effective connectivity in neuroimaging.

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