Associate Professor Ben Colagiuri
Deputy Head of School, Psychology, Sydney University 


In 1998, shortly after arriving for work, a Tennessee-based high school teacher reported a “gasoline-like smell” and feeling dizzy. Soon after, the local emergency ward was inundated with students and staff reporting symptoms of chemical poisoning. Thirty-eight people had such extreme symptoms they were kept overnight. Yet, official investigators failed to find any evidence whatsoever of the school being contaminated. But, how is it that such extreme adverse reactions occur to innocuous agents?

The nocebo effect is the pervasive problem whereby negative information alone can trigger adverse reactions. Importantly, the nocebo effect not only causes significant harm to individuals, such as to the staff and students above, but can even interfere with public policy, including wide-spread resistance to wind farms in Australia due to supposed ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’.

Developing strategies to inhibit the nocebo effect is therefore critical. In this talk, I will discuss experimental studies using communication (framing) and learning strategies (latent inhibition) to inhibit the nocebo effect..

Speaker bio

Ben Colagiuri is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at The University of Sydney. He received his PhD in Psychology in 2010 from the same School. His research explores how expectancies influence human behaviour, with a specific interest in placebo and nocebo effects. To date, he has developed a number of novel experimental models to uncover the mechanisms of placebo and nocebo effects for pain, sleep, nausea, and related conditions.

He has been awarded more than $2.7 million in competitive research funding, including multiple Australian Research Council Discovery Grants, published over 70 scientific papers, and received national and international recognition for his research, including the Australian Psychological Society Early Career Research Award 2014 and the International Society for Behavioural Medicine Early Career Award 2016. His current research is exploring how knowledge about placebo and nocebo effects could be used ethically to improve patient outcomes.

About Seminar Series

The School of Pharmacy Seminar Series involves regular formal presentations of high-quality scholarly work with broad appeal.

The wider School community is invited to attend, including academic and professional staff, special guests, visitors, as well as HDR, postgraduate, masters and honours students.

Seminars are held on Fridays from 12pm–1pm in room 5034 in the Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence, 20 Cornwall St Woolloongabba (next to TRI and the PA Hospital).

Confirmed 2021 seminars

Date Presenter
12-1pm, Friday 19 March
(PACE R5034 and Zoom)
Professor Paul Clarke, Director Diamantina Institute        
12-1pm, Friday 16 April
(Zoom only)
Associate Professor Francine Marques, Monash University     
12-1pm, Friday 23 April
(Zoom only)
Associate Professor Ben Colagiuri, Sydney University 
12-1pm, Friday 7 May
(Zoom only)
Dr Laurence Cheung, Curtin University
12-1pm, Friday 30 July
(location TBC)
Dr Gary Chan, UQ CYSUR
12-1pm, Friday 13 August
(Zoom only)
Professor Sanjay Garg, University of South Australia
12-1pm, Friday 3 September
(PACE R5034 and Zoom)
Associate Professor Michael Barras, UQ Pharmacy
12-1pm 10 September
(Online via Zoom)

Professor Josephine Forbes, Mater Research


12-1pm, Friday 17 September
(PACE R5034 and Zoom)

Professor Nigel McMillan, Program Director: Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Menzies Health Institute QLD, Griffith University

12-1pm, Friday 24 September
(Location TBC)
Denuja Karunakaran, IMB Fellow, Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), UQ


Online via Zoom (register via link)