Poster F39, Tuesday, March 28, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Placebo Brain Stimulation Affects Feelings of Agency and Neural Responses to Errors
Michiel van Elk1, Suzanne Hoogeveen2, Uffe Schjoedt3; 1University of Amsterdam, 2University of Amsterdam, 3University of Arhus
The aim of this EEG study was to investigate whether belief in cognitive enhancement through neurostimulation can affect feelings of agency and neural markers of distress in response to errors. Participants were exposed to a placebo brain stimulation device while performing a Flanker task. The expectations regarding brain stimulation were manipulated by using a placebo condition (i.e., cognitive enhancement), a nocebo condition (i.e., cognitive impairment) and a control condition (i.e., no effect of brain stimulation). The placebo / nocebo manipulation affected subjective, but not objective performance (reaction times and error rates). An effect of our experimental manipulation on feelings of agency and the error related negativity (ERN) was found: participants attributed errors more often to the brain stimulation device in the nocebo condition compared to the control and the placebo condition. In addition, a stronger ERN was observed in the placebo compared to the control and the nocebo conditions. The amplitude of the ERN was related to feelings of agency, reflecting that a stronger tendency to attribute the error to the brain stimulation device was associated with a reduced ERN amplitude. These findings indicate that unfulfilled beliefs about cognitive enhancement cause personal distress and highlight the potential of placebo brain stimulation as a powerful technique in cognitive experimental research.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Other