Luana Colloca
Associate professor, University of Maryland & Honorary Professor, University of Sydney, School of Psychology. 

From learning to expectancy violation: Understanding placebo effects to harness them

Expectancies produce positive outcomes and placebo effects in individuals by virtue of anticipations of a benefit and activation of specific endogenous modulatory systems. Based on a well-established proposed conceptual framework, placebo effects are presented as the product of expectancy mechanisms in which conditioned, verbal, and observational cues are centrally integrated to change behaviors and outcomes. Neuroimaging studies that have capitalized on well-established behavioral paradigms within this framework implicate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as a key region in producing these effects. However, expectancies of improvements in real-world settings are often violated. The effects of expectancy violation are presented along with the brain mechanism implicated with mismatch processing and abolishment of placebo effects. Finally, strategies to harness placebo effects are discussed including the use of dose-extending placebos as well as vasopressin and oxytocin as promising adjuvants contributing to the enhancement of placebo effects.


Dr. Luana Colloca is an NIH-funded associate professor at the University of Maryland and a honorary professor at the University of Sydney School of Psychology. Dr. Colloca holds an MD, a master degree in Bioethics and a PhD in Neuroscience. In addition, Dr. Colloca completed a post-doc training at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and a senior research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, USA.
Dr. Colloca has conducted several ground-breaking studies that have advanced scientific understanding of the psychoneurobiological bases of endogenous systems for pain modulation in humans. As a result, she has developed an international reputation as a leading scientist for advancing knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms of placebo effects with an integrative approach including psychopharmacological, neurobiological and behavioral approaches publishing in top-ranked international journals including, Biological Psychiatry, Pain, JAMA, among others. The impact of her creative work is clear from her impressive citation rate and more than 100 invited lectures.