This is a repost, but wanted to have it firmly in the conversation when talking about placebo. There has been very little done on placebo and the autonomic response, which is what I measure, but this study confirms that placebo does not seem to affect the autonomic nervous system.
We tested the hypothesis that a suggestive placebo intervention can reduce the subjective and neurobiological stress response to psychosocial stress. Fifty-four healthy male subjects with elevated levels of trait anxiety were randomly assigned in a 4:4:1 fashion to receive either no treatment (n = 24), a placebo pill (n = 24), or a herbal drug (n = 6) before undergoing a stress test. We repeatedly measured psychological variables as well as salivary cortisol, alpha-amylase, and heart rate variability prior to and following the stress test. The stressor increased subjective stress and anxiety, salivary cortisol, and alpha-amylase, and decreased heart rate variability (all P < .001). However, no significant differences between subjects receiving placebo or no treatment were found. Subjects receiving placebo showed increased wakefulness during the stress test compared with no-treatment controls (P < .001). Thus, the suggestive placebo intervention increased alertness, but modulated neither subjective stress and anxiety nor the physiological response to psychosocial stress.