A number of studies have demonstrated substantial individual differences in placebo effects. We aimed to identify individual psychological factors that potentially predicted the magnitude of placebo hypoalgesia and individual responsiveness. The Research Domain Criteria framework and a classical conditioning with suggestions paradigm were adopted as experimental models to study placebo phenotypes in a cohort of 397 chronic pain participants with a primary diagnosis of temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and 397 healthy control (HC) participants. The magnitude of placebo hypoalgesia was operationalized as the average difference in pain ratings between the placebo and control conditions. The individual placebo responsiveness was identified as the status of placebo responders and nonresponders based on a permutation test. We observed significant placebo effects in both TMD and HC participants. A greater level of emotional distress was a significant predictor of smaller magnitude (slope b = -0.07) and slower extinction rate (slope b = 0.51) of placebo effects in both TMD and HC participants. Greater reward seeking was linked to greater postconditioning expectations (ie, reinforced expectations) in TMD (slope b = 0.16), but there was no such a prediction in HC participants. These findings highlight that negative valence systems might play a role in impairing placebo effects, with a larger impact in chronic pain participants than in healthy participants, suggesting that individuals reporting emotional distress and maladaptive cognitive appraisals of pain may benefit less from placebo effects.
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