Among the cognitive strategies that can facilitate motor performance in sport and physical practice, a prominent role is played by the direction of the focus of attention and the placebo effect. Consistent evidence converges in indicating that these two cognitive functions can influence the motor outcome, although no study up-to-now tried to study them together in the motor domain. In this explorative study, we combine for the first time these approaches, by applying a placebo procedure to increase force and by manipulating the focus of attention with explicit verbal instructions. Sixty healthy volunteers were asked to perform abduction movements with the index finger as strongly as possible against a piston and attention could be directed either toward the movements of the finger (internal focus, IF) or toward the movements of the piston (external focus, EF). Participants were randomized in 4 groups: two groups underwent a placebo procedure (Placebo-IF and Placebo-EF), in which an inert treatment was applied on the finger with verbal information on its positive effects on force; two groups underwent a control procedure (Control-IF and Control-EF), in which the same treatment was applied with overt information about its inefficacy. The placebo groups were conditioned about the effects of the treatment with a surreptitious amplification of a visual feedback signalling the level of force. During the whole procedure, we recorded actual force, subjective variables and electromyography from the hand muscles. The Placebo-IF group had higher force levels after the procedure than before, whereas the Placebo-EF group had a decrease of force. Electromyography showed that the Placebo-IF group increased the muscle units recruitment without changing the firing rate. These findings show for the first time that the placebo effect in motor performance can be influenced by the subject’s attentional focus, being enhanced with the internal focus of attention.

The placebo effect in the motor domain is differently modulated by the external and internal focus of attention

Rossettini, Giacomo;Testa, Marco;
2018

Abstract

Among the cognitive strategies that can facilitate motor performance in sport and physical practice, a prominent role is played by the direction of the focus of attention and the placebo effect. Consistent evidence converges in indicating that these two cognitive functions can influence the motor outcome, although no study up-to-now tried to study them together in the motor domain. In this explorative study, we combine for the first time these approaches, by applying a placebo procedure to increase force and by manipulating the focus of attention with explicit verbal instructions. Sixty healthy volunteers were asked to perform abduction movements with the index finger as strongly as possible against a piston and attention could be directed either toward the movements of the finger (internal focus, IF) or toward the movements of the piston (external focus, EF). Participants were randomized in 4 groups: two groups underwent a placebo procedure (Placebo-IF and Placebo-EF), in which an inert treatment was applied on the finger with verbal information on its positive effects on force; two groups underwent a control procedure (Control-IF and Control-EF), in which the same treatment was applied with overt information about its inefficacy. The placebo groups were conditioned about the effects of the treatment with a surreptitious amplification of a visual feedback signalling the level of force. During the whole procedure, we recorded actual force, subjective variables and electromyography from the hand muscles. The Placebo-IF group had higher force levels after the procedure than before, whereas the Placebo-EF group had a decrease of force. Electromyography showed that the Placebo-IF group increased the muscle units recruitment without changing the firing rate. These findings show for the first time that the placebo effect in motor performance can be influenced by the subject’s attentional focus, being enhanced with the internal focus of attention.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11567/917823
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