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The Colloca Lab

Translational Neuroscience | Chronic Pain | Placebo

Dr. Luana Colloca

is an MPower Distinguished professor and the Director of the Placebo Beyond Opinions Center. As an NIH-funded principal investigator, Dr Colloca has established an independent program of research on human pain modulation from both a mechanistic and translational viewpoint. Her team explores the role of neurobehavioral and genetic influences on a newly described model namely expectancy-induced analgesia, in patients suffering from chronic pain.

During her time as an MD student, she discovered her passion for neuroscience while attending the course of neurophysiology, and therefore decided to pursue her path in research as a physician-scientist. She holds an MD, a PhD in Neuroscience and a master degree in Neuroethics from the University of Turin School of Medicine, Italy. She completed a post-doctoral training at the Brain Imaging Center at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

After a five year senior research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, she joined the University of Maryland School of Nursing and School of Medicine in Baltimore serving as a Full Professor. She is the recipient of the UMB Named Inaugural MPower Professorship award.

Are Placebos The Solution? Dr. Colloca's Tedx Talk

"Luana Colloca explores the role of the placebo reflex in the neurobiology of pain. It's not about the popular culture conception of placebos as pills, but rather expectations that can create an array of responses in the brain. such as the release of endogenous opioids. By triggering this response, many patients may be able to avoid opioid medicines and the risk of addiction."

Notable Publications


Placebo effects in osteoarthritis: implications for treatment and drug development

Nature Reviews Rheumatology | Oct 2023

"Placebo responses are prevalent in clinical trials for osteoarthritis, and they hinder the identification of effective new treatments. In this Review, Colloca and Neogi describe various aspects of the placebo phenomenon, and demonstrate how this knowledge can help to improve the design of clinical trials."

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News Appearances


This Is Your Brain On Pain

WYPR | Jan 23, 2020

Dr. Colloca interviews with Sheilah Kast & Melissa Gerr on placebo effects, nocebo effects, and endogenous opioids, highlighting the lab's research on virtual reality's effects on chronic pain.

Photo Credits: Mary T. Phelan


Power of the Placebo

Discover Magazine | Jul 19, 2014

Erik Vance's recounts his experience as a participant in Dr. Colloca's placebo experiment and elaborates on the intricacies of the placebo effect.

Photo Credits: Mary T. Phelan


The science of using your expectations to relieve pain

PBS NewsHour | Apr 11, 2018

Dr. Colloca discusses the placebo effect and the lab's placebo experiment in an interview with Nsikan Akpan for a PBS NewsHour segment on expectancy-based pain relief. 


Scientists are unraveling the mysteries of pain

National Geographic | Jan, 2020

Dr. Colloca is highlighted in a National Geographic article reporting on the newest pain-related scientific discoveries.

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The neuroscientist harnessing the placebo effect to help soothe pain

NewScientist | Feb 6, 2024

How exactly the placebo effect works is still a mystery, but neuroscientist Luana Colloca is working to find the answers in order to change the way we treat pain.

Photo Credits: Matthew Paul D’Agostino

Lab Blog

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