The Role of Expectation and Beliefs on the Effects of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation

Source: Brain Sciences. 11(11) (no pagination), 2021. Article Number: 1526.

Date of Publication: November 2021.

Author: Braga M.; Barbiani D.; Andani M.E.; Villa-Sanchez B.; Tinazzi M.; Fiorio M.

Abstract: Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques are used in clinical and
cognitive neu-roscience to induce a mild magnetic or electric field in the brain to modulate behavior and cortical activation. Despite the great body of literature demonstrating promising results, unexpected or even paradoxical outcomes are sometimes observed. This might be due either to technical and methodological issues (e.g., stimulation parameters, stimulated brain area), or to participants’ expectations and beliefs before and during the stimulation sessions. In this narrative review, we present some studies showing that placebo and nocebo effects, associated with positive and negative expectations, respectively, could be present in NIBS trials, both in experimental and in clinical settings. The lack of
systematic evaluation of subjective expectations and beliefs before and after stimulation could represent a caveat that overshadows the potential contribution of placebo and nocebo effects in the outcome of NIBS trials.