Open-label placebo; maximal voluntary isometric contraction; neuromuscular fatigue
Placebo treatments have long been used to study the psychological effects of expectancy and conditioning on an inert intervention. Interestingly, open-label placebo treatments (i.e., directly telling subjects they are receiving an inactive intervention) have recently shown promise in minimizing pain in clinical patient populations. We utilized a repeated measures design to examine the acute effects of placebo, open-label placebo, and control treatments on muscle strength and voluntary activation (Experiment #1), as well as neuromuscular fatigue (Experiment #2). Twenty-one untrained males (n=11) and females (n=10) visited the laboratory on three occasions to receive each treatment in a randomized, counter-balanced manner. All visits involved a pretest, 15-minute intervention period, and posttest. In Experiment #1, knee extensor maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) peak torque and percent voluntary activation were evaluated. In Experiment #2, subjects performed 20, six-second MVICs while surface electromyographic signals were detected from the vastus lateralis. Subjective assessments of energy and perceived exertion were also examined. In Experiment #1, no differences among interventions were demonstrated for peak torque or voluntary activation, but a main effect revealed that energy levels increased following each treatment (p = .016, η2 = .257). Experiment #2 demonstrated that placebo and open-label placebo treatments had no influence on neuromuscular fatigue, but there were main effects for declines in absolute (p = .001, η2 = .675) and normalized peak torque (p = .001, η2 = .765), electromyographic mean frequency (p = .001, η2 = .565), neuromuscular efficiency (p = .001, η2 = .585), and energy levels (p = .006, η2 = .317). Collectively, placebo and open-label placebo treatments had minimal influence on strength, voluntary activation, and fatigue resistance in untrained subjects. We speculate that our subject population and study design intricacies that are unique to placebo trials may explain our findings.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Education and Human Performance
Educational and Human Sciences
Sport & Exercise Science
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Swafford, Alina, "Acute Effects of Placebo and Open-Label Placebo Treatments on Muscle Strength, Voluntary Activation, and Neuromuscular Fatigue." (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6096.
Restricted to the UCF community until August 2021; it will then be open access.