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Placebo Workshop: Translational Research Domains and Key Questions

Date and Time

July 11–12, 2024
12:00–4:00 p.m. ET




The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) will host a virtual workshop on the placebo effect. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together experts in neurobiology, clinical trials, and regulatory science to examine placebo effects in drug, device, and psychosocial interventions for mental health conditions.

Topics will include interpretability of placebo signals within the context of clinical trials, how to isolate active response from placebo effects, and psychosocial implications of placebo response.

The workshop will be open to the scientific community and the public at large.  

Sponsored by

The National Institute of Mental Health’s Division of Translational Research (DTR).


This workshop is free, but registration is required .


If you have questions about this workshop or need reasonable accommodations, please email Doug Meinecke, Ph.D. and Erin King, Ph.D. Requests need to be made five business days before the event. 


Day 1. Thursday, July 11

Time (ET)

12:00-12:05 p.m.

NIMH Welcome Remarks

Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D. 
NIMH staff

12:05-12:20 p.m.

Introduction and Workshop Overview

  • Workshop goals
  • Placebo definition
  • Introduction to placebo mechanisms

Tor Wager, Ph.D.

12:20-1:10 p.m.

Historic Perspectives on Placebo in Drug Trials

  • Industry and regulatory perspectives

Part 1: The Scale of the Placebo Problem, Ni Aye Khin, MD

Part 2: Strategies and Results, Michael Detke, MD, Ph.D.

1:10-1:35 p.m.

Current State of Placebo in Regulatory Trials

  • Mitigation and control of placebo response in drug trials

Title TBD
Tiffany Farchione, M.D.,

1:35-1:50 p.m.


1:50-2:30 p.m.

Current State of Placebo in Device Trials

  • Historical perspectives and current challenges

Sham in device trials: Historical perspectives and lessons learned, Sarah Hollingsworth “Holly” Lisanby, MD

Challenges and Strategies in Implementing Effective Sham Stimulation for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Trials, Zhi-De Deng, Ph.D.

2:30-3:10 p.m.

Current State of Placebo in Psychosocial Trials

  • How is placebo defined in the context of psychosocial interventions?
  • How is placebo defined in the context of psychosocial interventions?

What is the psychosocial “placebo pill”? Transferring the Placebo Construct to  Psychosocial Trials, Winfried Rief, Ph.D.

A social neuroscience approach to placebo analgesia, Lauren Atlas, Ph.D.

3:10-4:00 p.m.

Panel Discussion

  • Identification of gap areas and current challenges

Carolyn Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D.
Alexander Talkovsky, Ph.D.

All Day 1 and Day 2 speakers

Day 2. Friday, July 12

Time (ET)

12:00-12:15 p.m.

Day 1 Recap and Day 2 Overview

Cristina Cusin, M.D.

12:15-1:30 p.m.

(6, 20-minute talks with 5 minutes for questions each)

Measuring & Mitigating the Placebo Effect

  • What are the basic mechanisms of the placebo response?
  • Cross cutting commonalities in predicting placebo response
  • Psychosocial and interpersonal effects

Placebo and nocebo effects: Predictive factors in laboratory settings, Luana Colloca, MD, Ph.D.

Genetics and the Placebo Response in Clinical Trials and Medicine, Kathryn Hall, Ph.D., MPH

Disentangling the physiological, psychological and neural mechanisms supporting mindfulness-based analgesia from placebo, Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D

1:30-1:40 p.m.


1:40-2:55 p.m.

Measuring & Mitigating the Placebo Effect (continued)

  • Which outcomes are susceptible to placebo response?
  • What are other measures of placebo response besides biological?
  • Novel biological and behavioral approaches to address the placebo effect in research
Mapping Expectancy-Mood Interactions in Antidepressant Placebo Effects, Marta Peciña, MD, Ph.D.

The appetitive side of placebo effects: Findings from functional magnetic resonance imaging and computational modelling of placebo effects on motivation, Liane Schmidt, Ph.D.

Expectation-driven control of pain neural circuits: preclinical modeling of placebo analgesia, Gregory Corder, Ph.D.

2:55-3:55 p.m.

Panel Discussion

  • Identification of gap areas and current challenges

Ted Kaptchuk, M.D.
Matthew Rudorfer, M.D.

All Day 1 and Day 2 speakers

3:55-4:00 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Cristina Cusin, MD