Title: Pain by association? Experimental modulation of human pain thresholds using classical conditioning
Authors: Madden, Tory ×
Bellan, Valeria
Russek, Leslie N
Camfferman, Danny
Vlaeyen, Johan
Moseley, G Lorimer #
Issue Date: Jul-2016
Publisher: Churchill Livingstone
Series Title: The Journal of Pain vol:17 pages:1105-1115
Article number: S1526-5900(16)30126-2
Abstract: A classical conditioning framework is often used for clinical reasoning about pain that persists after tissue healing. However, experimental studies demonstrating classically conditioned pain in humans are lacking. The current study tested whether non-nociceptive somatosensory stimuli can come to modulate pain threshold after being paired with painful nociceptive stimuli in healthy humans. We used a differential simultaneous conditioning paradigm in which one non-painful vibrotactile conditioned stimulus (CS+) was simultaneously paired with an unconditioned painful laser stimulus (US), while another vibrotactile stimulus (CS-) was paired with a non-painful laser stimulus. After acquisition, at-pain-threshold laser stimuli were delivered simultaneously with a CS+ or CS- vibrotactile stimulus. The primary outcome was the percentage of at-threshold laser stimuli that were reported as painful. The results were as expected: after conditioning, at-threshold laser trials paired with the CS+ were reported as painful more often, as more intense, and as more unpleasant than those paired with the CS-. This study provides new evidence that pain thresholds can be modulated via classical conditioning, even when the stimulus used to test the threshold can not be anticipated. As such, it lays a critical foundation for further investigations of classical conditioning as a possible driver of persistent pain.
ISSN: 1526-5900
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Health Psychology
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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