The influence of emotion on subjective pain experience, self-reported affect and physiological responses under different heat pain intensities
RefereeTraue, Harald C.
InstitutionsUKU. Klinik für Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie
Objective. Prior research work suggests that positive affect attenuates pain while negative affect enhances it. The present study sought to examine whether: 1) affective stimuli would influence emotional states of participants under different heat pain intensities; 2) affect would modulate the experience of pain in healthy individuals; 3) the physiological responses would variate during different emotional conditions and concurrent heat pain stimulation; and 4) emotion elicitation would influence differently the measured parameters with regard to the stimulated arm. Design. 43 healthy participants (21 females, 22 males) with a mean age of 26.40 years (SD = 6.24) attended the experimental session. At the beginning of the experimental session the researchers determined individual pain threshold and pain tolerance for each participant. During the testing session, participants were presented with various pictures intended to elicit emotions (highly positive, neutral, highly negative) and simultaneously, they were stimulated with different heat intensities to either the right or left arm. This phase was followed by an after-rating condition, where pain ratings were made on a visual analogue scale (VAS) and emotion ratings on the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM), respectively. Outcome Measures. Physiological measures and self-report were collected. Especially, electrical cardiac activity, electrical muscle activity of the trapezius muscle, electrodermal activity and respiration were recorded throughout the experimental session. Pain intensity (i.e., pain threshold and tolerance) and affect (i.e., valence and arousal) were measured in the after-rating condition. Results. Pictures effectively manipulated self-reported affect across all heat intensities. Positive emotion led to pain enhancement and negative affect led to pain inhibition. Moreover, emotions produced highly significant changes in participants’ physiological responses. Lastly, affect produced significant changes in a number of psychophysiological parameters, especially when the participants’ left arm was stimulated with heat pain. Conclusion. Affect modulates pain experience in healthy individuals. Although preliminary, these findings may have clinical relevance because they suggest that emotion elicitation techniques to regulate acute pain can be used in clinical settings. However, particular attention should be paid to positive affect of high intensity which it seems to increase pain experience. Furthermore, pain in treatment settings is a real threat and can pose an enormous burden on patient’s quality of life. Therefore, future work is needed to examine the underlying mechanisms of pain facilitation and inhibition in healthy individuals and clinical populations.
Subject HeadingsGefühl [GND]
KeywordsPain experience; Physiological responses; Affective stimulation; Heat stimulation
Dewey Decimal GroupDDC 150 / Psychology
DDC 610 / Medicine & health