Telling patients that they should expect to feel nauseated following surgery may help prevent that queasy feeling, researchers say. In a study, researchers divided 75 healthy college students into three groups of 25. Before beginning an experiment to induce motion sickness, they gave students a dummy pill. Researchers told one group of students that the pill would prevent nausea and another group that the pill would worsen nausea. They told the third group that the pill would have no impact on nausea.
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Wearing electrodes on the abdomen to monitor stomach activity, the students then sat inside a drum covered in vertical stripes that rotated at a consistent pace for up to 16 minutes. They were asked to report symptoms, such as nausea, warmth, dizziness, and drowsiness.
Surprisingly, the students who were prepared for the worst experienced the fewest symptoms of nausea and motion sickness. Those who'd been told the pill would protect them from nausea "fared no better" than those who'd been told the pill would have no effect on symptoms, the researchers found. They say that their findings suggest that "patients preparing for difficult medical procedures may benefit most from being provided with detailed information about how unpleasant their condition may become."
The effects of manipulating expectations through placebo and nocebo administration on gastric tachyarrhythmia and motion-induced nausea, Psychosomatic Medicine, ME Levine, et al., May/June 2006.