• Placebo Effects
• Asian Traditional Medicine
• Alternative Medicine
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Prof. Kaptchuk's scientific and scholarly career has involved a multi-disciplinary investigation of placebo effects that integrates concepts, research designs and analytic methods drawn from the basic, clinical, and social sciences as well as the humanities. Work performed by Prof. Kaptchuk and his colleagues has greatly expanded knowledge of placebo effects. In terms of clinical studies, teams that he has led have demonstrated that 1) device placebos have larger placebo effects than placebo pills, i.e., placebos are not all the same (BMJ 2006), 2) placebo effects can be administered in a manner analogous to dose dependent, i.e., placebo effects can behave like pharmaceuticals (BMJ 2008), 3) placebos "work" even when honesty described as "inert," i.e., placebo effects can be decoupled from deception and concealment (PLoS One 2010), 4) placebo effects can be activated by non-conscious mechanisms (PNAS 2012), 5) elucidated the disjunction whereby placebos can be indistinguishable from powerful medications on subjective symptoms but still have no effect on pathophysiology (NEJM 2011) and 5) demonstrated that changing labels in acute episodic migraine attack can alter medication effects (Science Translational Medicine 2014). In terms of mechanism, he has led groundbreaking imaging studies of placebo (J Neuroscience 2006, 2008,Molecular Psychiatry 2013) and in the social sciences (e.g., Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry 2009, Psychosomatic Medicine 2009, Social Science & Med 2010, 2012, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of Medicine Part B 2011) that have helped set new standards in multi-disciplinary placebo research.
Current Research Support
2 K24 AT004095, 2012-2017
Mentoring and Research in Placebo Studies, Asian Medicine and CAM
Five years of support to mentor the next generation of basic, clinical, social scientists to advance the scientific understanding of placebo effects, Asian medicine and CAM research.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Pioneer Fund, 2010-2015
Multidisciplinary Symposia in the Therapeutic Encounter and Placebo Studies
A series of multi-disciplinary symposia will examine the potential of placebo studies to inform and transform health care by fostering collobration among experts in clinical care, social sciences, humanities and health policy.
R01 AT005280, 2010-2015
An fMRI study of expectancy on acupuncture treatment outcomes in knee OA
This neuroimaging project examines the role of expectancy (placebo) as it impacts on acupuncture. One experiment manipulates expectation while experiments follows patients longitudinally over eight weeks.
T32 AT000051, 2014-2019
Research and Training: Complementary & Integrative Medicine
This grant prepares physicians and research scientists for careers in integrative medicine, mind-body medicine, placebo, and Asian medicine.
Role: Associate Director
P01 AT006663, 2011-2016
Neuroimaging Acupuncture and Placebo Brain Activity in Chronic Low Back Pain
This program project seeks to elucidate the neurobiology of expectation, the patient-provider relationship and acupuncture in a series of integrated clinical and neuroscience experiments.
Role: Clinical Core Director
Selected Peer-Reviewed Publications
1. Wechsler ME, Kelley JM, Boyd IOE, Dutile S, Marigowda G, Kirsch I, Israel E, Kaptchuk TJ. Active or placebo albuterol, sham acupuncture or no treatment in asthma. NEJM 2011, 365: 119-126.
2. Kaptchuk TJ. Placebo controls, exorcisms, and the devil. Lancet 2009; 374:1234-5.
3. Kaptchuk TJ, Kelley JM, Conboy LA, Davis RB, Kerr CE, Jacobson EE, Kirsch I, Schyner RN,Nam BY, Nguyen LT, Park M, Rivers AL, McManus C, Kokkotou E, Drossman DA, Goldman P,Lembo AJ. Components of the placebo effect: a randomized controlled trial in irritable bowel syndrome. BMJ 2008; 336: 998-1003. PMCID: PMC2364862.
4. Kong J, Gollub R, Polich G, Kirsch I, LaViolette P, Vangel M, Rosen B, Kaptchuk TJ. An fMRI study on the neural mechanisms of hyperalgesic nocebo effect. J Neurosci 2008; 28: 13354-62. PMCID 2742363
5. Kaptchuk TJ, Friedlander E, Kelley JM, Sanchez MN, Kokkotou E, Singer JP, Kowalczykowski M, Miller FG, Kirsch I, Lembo AJ. Placebos without deception: a randomized controlled trial in irritable bowel syndrome. PLoS One 2010; 5: e15591. PMCID PMC3008733..