The anticipation of pain at a specific location of the body prioritizes tactile stimuli at that location

Author: Vanden Bulcke, Charlotte; Van Damme, Stefaan; Durnez, Wouter; Crombez, Geert

Description: This study investigated whether one becomes more quickly aware of innocuous somatosensory signals at locations of the body where pain is anticipated. Undergraduate students (N=20) indicated which of 2 stimuli that were administered to each hand using a range of stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs), was presented first. Participants were instructed that the color of a cue (1 of 2 colors) signaled the possible occurrence of pain on 1 hand (threat trials). The other color of the cue signaled that no pain would follow (control trials). Results showed that during threat trials tactile stimuli on the hand where pain was expected, were perceived earlier in time than stimuli on the neutral hand. These findings demonstrate that the anticipation of pain at a particular location of the body resulted in the prioritization in time of somatosensory sensations at that location, indicating biased attention towards the threatened body part. The value of this study for investigating hypervigilance for somatosensory signals in clinical populations such as patients with chronic lower back pain is discussed.

Subject headings: Adolescent; Attention; Cues; Female; Humans; Judgment; Male; Pain; Physical Stimulation; Reaction Time; Self Report; Space Perception; Touch; Young Adult

Publication year: 2013

Journal or book title: Pain

Volume: 154

Issue: 8

Pages: 1464-1468

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Serial number: 3327

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