42 research outputs found

    Vicarious facilitation of facial responses to pain

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    Introduction: Observing facial expressions of pain has been shown to lead to increased subjective, neural and autonomic pain responses. Surprisingly, these vicarious facilitation effects on its corresponding response channel, namely facial responses to pain have mostly been neglected. We aim to examine whether the prior exposure to facial expressions of pain leads to a facilitation of facial responses to experimental pain; and whether this facilitation is linked to the valence (pain vs. neutral expression) or also linked to specific motor-features of the facial pain expressions (different facial muscle movements). Method: Subjective (intensity and unpleasantness ratings) and facial responses (Facial Action Coding System) of 64 participants (34 female) to painful and non-painful heat stimuli were assessed. Before each heat stimulus, video clips of computer-generated facial expressions (three different pain expressions and a neutral expression) were presented. Results: The prior exposure to facial expressions of pain led to increased subjective and facial responses to pain. Further, vicarious pain facilitation of facial responses was significantly correlated with facilitation of unpleasantness ratings. We also found evidence that this vicarious facilitation of facial responses was not only linked to the presentation of pain versus neutral expressions but also to specific motor-features of the pain cue (increase in congruent facial muscle movements). Discussion: Vicarious pain facilitation was found for subjective and facial responses to pain. The results are discussed with reference to the motivational priming hypothesis as well as with reference to motor priming. Significance: Our study uncovers evidence that facial pain responses are not only influenced by motivational priming (similar to other types of pain responses), but also by motor-priming. These findings shed light on the complexity -ranging from social, affective and motor mechanisms -underling vicarious facilitation of pain

    Better safe than sorry?-On the influence of learned safety on pain perception

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    The experience of threat was found to result-mostly-in increased pain, however it is still unclear whether the exact opposite, namely the feeling of safety may lead to a reduction of pain. To test this hypothesis, we conducted two between-subject experiments (N = 94; N = 87), investigating whether learned safety relative to a neutral control condition can reduce pain, while threat should lead to increased pain compared to a neutral condition. Therefore, participants first underwent either threat or safety conditioning, before entering an identical test phase, where the previously conditioned threat or safety cue and a newly introduced visual cue were presented simultaneously with heat pain stimuli. Methodological changes were performed in experiment 2 to prevent safety extinction and to facilitate conditioning in the first place: We included additional verbal instructions, increased the maximum length of the ISI and raised CS-US contingency in the threat group from 50% to 75%. In addition to pain ratings and ratings of the visual cues (threat, safety, arousal, valence, and contingency), in both experiments, we collected heart rate and skin conductance. Analysis of the cue ratings during acquisition indicate successful threat and safety induction, however results of the test phase, when also heat pain was administered, demonstrate rapid safety extinction in both experiments. Results suggest rather small modulation of subjective and physiological pain responses following threat or safety cues relative to the neutral condition. However, exploratory analysis revealed reduced pain ratings in later trials of the experiment in the safety group compared to the threat group in both studies, suggesting different temporal dynamics for threat and safety learning and extinction, respectively. Perspective: The present results demonstrate the challenge to maintain safety in the presence of acute pain and suggest more research on the interaction of affective learning mechanism and pain processing.</p

    Relationship between chronotype and pain threshold in a sample of young healthy adults

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    Introduction: Chronotype indicates the biological preference for timing of activity and sleep. Being a late chronotype (ie, having a tendency for late sleep times) is associated with several mental and physical health problems. Previous studies found that late chronotypes are also more susceptible to chronic pain, but the relationship between chronotype and pain sensitivity remains unclear. Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between chronotype and heat pain threshold (as an indicator of pain sensitivity) in a sample of young healthy adults. Methods: We analyzed data from 316 young healthy adults participating in 4 different studies run at the Medical Faculty of the University of Augsburg. In all studies, chronotype and other sleep variables (eg, sleep duration) were assessed using the micro Munich ChronoType Questionnaire. Heat pain threshold was assessed with the method of adjustment. Results: Chronotype was not significantly associated with the heat pain threshold. Entering the other sleep variables in separate regression models did also not significantly explain variance in heat pain threshold. Conclusion: Our null findings are in contrast with previous notions that late chronotypes might be more sensitive to pain and more susceptible to chronic pain. Given the scarcity of the literature on this topic, more studies are needed to clarify the relationship between chronotype and pain sensitivity in different age populations, while also considering distinct pain modalities or other types of pain tests

    COVID-19 related psychological burden and potential benefits of vaccination - data from a repeated cross-sectional survey in healthcare workers

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    The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the psychological well-being, especially of health care workers, for more than two years now. Here, we followed-up on a survey we conducted at the very beginning of the pandemic, to determine potential changes in psychological strain experienced by health care workers one year later. Since our first survey in 2020, COVID-19 vaccines have been established, thus we assessed whether vaccination-status might modulate psychological burden of health care workers. We also collected data on resilience and sleep, as those might be related to successful coping. Between March and April 2021, nurses and physicians (N ​= ​286) working at the University Hospital Augsburg - with high or low exposure to COVID-19 patients - took part in an online survey. We found that fully vaccinated personnel reported lower levels of anxiety, depression, stress and exhaustion suggesting the potential positive consequences of vaccination beyond the obvious protection against a COVID-19 infection. Nurses reported more depressive symptoms, anxiety, stress and exhaustion and lower levels of job fulfilment than physicians. Individuals with high exposure to COVID-19 patients reported higher exhaustion and depersonalization. Resilience and sleep quality were significantly correlated with psychological and work-related burden, suggesting their potential role as protective resources. In general, the comparison of the present data to the survey conducted in 2020 suggests an overall increase of psychological burden in health care workers. Despite these surely alarming findings, it should be noted that being vaccinated might come along with reduced psychological strain

    Placebo manipulations reverse pain potentiation by unpleasant affective stimuli

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    According to the motivational priming hypothesis, unpleasant stimuli activate the motivational defense system, which in turn promotes congruent affective states such as negative emotions and pain. The question arises to what degree this bottom– up impact of emotions on pain is susceptible to a manipulation of top–down-driven expectations. To this end, we investigated whether verbal instructions implying pain potentiation vs. reduction (placebo or nocebo expectations)—later on confirmed by corresponding experiences (placebo or nocebo conditioning)—might alter behavioral and neurophysiological correlates of pain modulation by unpleasant pictures. We compared two groups, which underwent three experimental phases: first, participants were either instructed that watching unpleasant affective pictures would increase pain (nocebo group) or that watching unpleasant pictures would decrease pain (placebo group) relative to neutral pictures. During the following placebo/nocebo-conditioning phase, pictures were presented together with electrical pain stimuli of different intensities, reinforcing the instructions. In the subsequent test phase, all pictures were presented again combined with identical pain stimuli. Electroencephalogram was recorded in order to analyze neurophysiological responses of pain (somatosensory evoked potential) and picture processing [visually evoked late positive potential (LPP)], in addition to pain ratings. In the test phase, ratings of pain stimuli administered while watching unpleasant relative to neutral pictures were significantly higher in the nocebo group, thus confirming the motivational priming effect for pain perception. In the placebo group, this effect was reversed such that unpleasant compared with neutral pictures led to significantly lower pain ratings. Similarly, somatosensory evoked potentials were decreased during unpleasant compared with neutral pictures, in the placebo group only. LPPs of the placebo group failed to discriminate between unpleasant and neutral pictures, while the LPPs of the nocebo group showed a clear differentiation. We conclude that the placebo manipulation already affected the processing of the emotional stimuli and, in consequence, the processing of the pain stimuli. In summary, the study revealed that the modulation of pain by emotions, albeit a reliable and well-established finding, is further tuned by reinforced expectations— known to induce placebo/nocebo effects—which should be addressed in future research and considered in clinical applications

    Acceptance-Based Emotion Regulation Reduces Subjective and Physiological Pain Responses

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    Acceptance-based regulation of pain, which focuses on the allowing of pain and pain related thoughts and emotions, was found to modulate pain. However, results so far are inconsistent regarding different pain modalities and indices. Moreover, studies so far often lack a suitable control condition, focus on behavioral pain measures rather than physiological correlates, and often use between-subject designs, which potentially impede the evaluation of the effectiveness of the strategies. Therefore, we investigated whether acceptance-based strategies can reduce subjective and physiological markers of acute pain in comparison to a control condition in a within-subject design. To this end, participants (N = 30) completed 24 trials comprising 10 s of heat pain stimulation. Each trial started with a cue instructing participants to welcome and experience pain (acceptance trials) or to react to the pain as it is without employing any regulation strategies (control trials). In addition to pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings, heart rate (HR) and skin conductance (SC) were recorded. Results showed significantly decreased pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings for acceptance compared to control trials. Additionally, HR was significantly lower during acceptance compared to control trials, whereas SC revealed no significant differences. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of acceptance-based strategies in reducing subjective and physiological pain responses relative to a control condition, even after short training. Therefore, the systematic investigation of acceptance in different pain modalities in healthy and chronic pain patients is warranted

    Psychological placebo and nocebo effects on pain rely on expectation and previous experience

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    AbstractExpectation and previous experience are both well established key mediators of placebo and nocebo effects. However, the investigation of their respective contribution to placebo and nocebo responses is rather difficult because most placebo and nocebo manipulations are contaminated by pre-existing treatment expectancies resulting from a learning history of previous medical interventions. To circumvent any resemblance to classical treatments, a purely psychological placebo-nocebo manipulation was established, namely, the “visual stripe pattern–induced modulation of pain.” To this end, experience and expectation regarding the effects of different visual cues (stripe patterns) on pain were varied across 3 different groups, with either only placebo instruction (expectation), placebo conditioning (experience), or both (expectation + experience) applied. Only the combined manipulation (expectation + experience) revealed significant behavioral and physiological placebo–nocebo effects on pain. Two subsequent experiments, which, in addition to placebo and nocebo cues, included a neutral control condition further showed that especially nocebo responses were more easily induced by this psychological placebo and nocebo manipulation. The results emphasize the great effect of psychological processes on placebo and nocebo effects. Particularly, nocebo effects should be addressed more thoroughly and carefully considered in clinical practice to prevent the accidental induction of side effects.PerspectiveEven purely psychological interventions that lack any resemblance to classical pain treatments might alter subjective and physiological pain correlates. A manipulation of treatment expectation and actual treatment experience were mandatory to elicit this effect. Nocebo effects were especially induced, which indicated the necessity for prevention of accidental side effects besides exploitation of placebo responses

    Kognititve und emotionale Einflussfaktoren auf Placeboanalgesie und Nocebohyperalgesie

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    The perception of pain can be modulated by a variety of factors such as biological/pharmacological treatments as well as potent cognitive and emotional manipulations. Placebo and nocebo effects are among the most prominent examples for such manipulations. Placebo and nocebo manipulations cause reliable psychological and physiological changes, although the administered agent or treatment is inert. The present dissertation aimed at investigating the role of cognitive and emotional influences in the generation of placebo and nocebo effects on pain perception. In addition, the feasibility of solely psychological placebo manipulations to alter the perception of pain was tested. Two commonly discussed preconditions for the generation of placebo and nocebo effects are prior experiences (i.e., past encounter of drug effects) and expectations (i.e., positive or negative attitudes towards an intervention). So far, research on placebo and nocebo effects relied on the administration of sham interventions, which resembled medical treatments like inert pills, creams or injections. However, such experimental procedures deal with confounds due to earlier experiences and expectations resulting from the individual’s history with medical interventions. Accordingly, the implementation of a placebo manipulation that is completely new to an individual, seems necessary to disentangle the contribution of experience and expectation for the induction of placebo and nocebo effects. To this end, in Experiment 1 the level of experience and expectation regarding a placebo-nocebo treatment was stepwise manipulated across three different experimental groups. To avoid any resemblances to earlier experiences and individual expectations, a mere psychological placebo-nocebo treatment was chosen that was new to all participants. They were instructed that visual black and white stripe patterns had been found to reliably alter the perception of pain. One group of participants received only the placebo-nocebo instruction (expectation), a second group experienced a placebo-nocebo treatment within a conditioning phase (experience) but no instruction, and a third group received the combination of both that is a placebo-nocebo instruction and a placebo-nocebo conditioning (experience + expectation). It was shown that only the experience + expectation group revealed significantly higher pain ratings and physiological responses during nocebo, compared to placebo trials of the succeeding test phase. These findings demonstrate that the induction of a mere psychological placebo-nocebo effect on pain is in principle possible. Most important, results indicate that such effects most likely rely on both, a positive treatment experience, due to the encounter of an effective intervention (placebo conditioning), and a positive expectation about the intervention (placebo instruction).Besides experience and expectation, the current mood state has been shown to modulate pain and to impact the induction of placebo and nocebo effects. In this vein it has been demonstrated that placebo effects come along with positive affect, while nocebo effects often occur together with elevated feelings of anxiety. To clarify the interaction of emotions and placebo-nocebo manipulations on pain perception, in Experiment 2 the paradigm of Experiment 1 was modified. Instead of black and white stripe patterns, positive and negative emotional pictures were presented, which either cued pain increase (nocebo) or pain decrease (placebo). Two experimental groups were compared, which differed with regard to the instructed contingency of positive pictures serving as placebo and negative pictures serving as nocebo cues or vice versa (congruent vs. incongruent). Results indicate that the differentiation of placebo and nocebo trials (behaviorally and physiologically) was more pronounced for the congruent compared to the incongruent group. However, in the incongruent group, affective pain ratings were also significantly higher for nocebo (positive pictures) than placebo (negative pictures) trials, similar to the congruent group. These findings demonstrate that a placebo-nocebo manipulation is capable to dampen and even reverse the originally pain augmenting effect of negative emotions. The results of Experiment 2 were further corroborated in Experiment 3, when the design was adapted to the fMRI scanner, and again a congruent and an incongruent experimental group were compared. Behavioral, physiological and neurophysiological markers of pain processing revealed a differentiation between nocebo and placebo conditions that was present irrespective of the experimental group. In addition, the fMRI analysis revealed an increased engagement of prefrontal areas for the incongruent group only, supposedly reflecting the reinterpretation or appraisal process when positive pictures were cueing negative outcomes. Taken together, the results of the present studies showed (a) that it is possible to induce a placebo-nocebo effect on pain solely by a psychological manipulation, (b) that both, prior experiences and positive expectation, are necessary preconditions for this placebo-nocebo effect, (c) that the impact of negative emotion on pain can be dampened and even reversed by placebo-nocebo manipulations, and (d) that most likely a cognitive top-down process is crucial for the induction of (psychological) placebo-nocebo effects. These results significantly enhance our understanding of psychological mechanisms involved in the induction of placebo-nocebo effects. Further, a fruitful foundation for future studies is provided, which will need to determine the contributions of primarily nocebo or placebo responses mediating the effects as demonstrated in the present studies. In a long-term perspective, the present findings may also help to exploit placebo effects and prevent from nocebo effect in clinical contexts by further elucidating crucial psychological factors that contribute to the placebo and nocebo response.Die Wahrnehmung von Schmerz kann durch eine Vielzahl von Faktoren beeinflusst werden, darunter biologische und pharmakologische Interventionen sowie potente kognitive und emotionale Manipulationen. Placebo- und Nocebo-effekte gehören mit zu den eindrucksvollsten Beispielen für die Wirksamkeit derartiger Manipulationen. Placebo- und Nocebo-Behandlungen können zu manifesten psychologischen und physiologischen Veränderungen führen, obwohl die verabreichten Substanzen frei von Wirkstoffen bzw. den angewandten Scheinbehandlungen keine Wirkung zugeschrieben wird. In der vorliegenden Dissertation wurden kognitive und emotionale Einflussfaktoren auf die Induktion von Placebo- und Nocebo-Effekten bei der Wahrnehmung von Schmerz untersucht. Darüber hinaus sollte die Möglichkeit zur Verwendung rein psychologischer Placebo-Nocebo Manipulationen für die Modulation von Schmerz getestet werden. Zwei zentrale Voraussetzungen für die Erzeugung von Placebo und Nocebo-Effekten sind vorherige Erfahrung (z.B. auf Grund früherer Erfahrungen mit einem Medikament) und Erwartung (z.B. eine positive oder negative persönliche Einstellung gegenüber einer Therapie). Bisher basierte die Forschung zu Placebo- und Nocebo-Effekten vornehmlich auf Ergebnissen von Untersuchungen die Schein-Behandlungen oder Leerpräparate einsetzten wie z.B. Tabletten, Cremes oder Injektionen, die herkömmlichen medizinischen Interventionen sehr ähnlich sind. Jedoch ergibt sich bei einem derartigen experimentellen Vorgehen stets das Problem einer Konfundierung der Ergebnisse durch den Einfluss früherer Erfahrungen oder der individuellen Erwartungshaltung an die Behandlung, die aus einer Vorgeschichte medizinischer Therapieerlebnissen herrührt. Daraus leitet sich die Notwendigkeit von anderweitigen, dem Probanden völlig unbekannten Placebo-Interventionen ab, um die jeweilige Beteiligung von Erwartungs- und Erfahrungsprozessen für die Induktion von Placebo- und Nocebo-Effekten bestimmen zu können. Zu diesem Zweck wurden in Experiment 1 Erwartung und Erfahrung in drei Experimentalgruppen stufenweise und unabhängig voneinander manipuliert. Um einer Ähnlichkeit zu früheren Behandlungs-Erfahrungen und dadurch abgeleiteten Erwartungen vorzubeugen, wurde ein rein psychologisches Placebo-Nocebo Verfahren herangezogen, das mit Sicherheit allen Teilnehmern unbekannt war. Sie wurden darüber informiert, dass die Betrachtung von schwarz-weißen Streifenmustern eine wissenschaftlich bestätigte Wirkung auf die Schmerzwahrnehmung hätte. Eine Gruppe der Teilnehmer erhielt lediglich eine Placebo-Nocebo Instruktion (Erwartung), eine zweite Gruppe erlebte tatsächlich die Kopplung von zwei verschiedenen Streifenmustern mit unterschiedlich starken Schmerzreizen während einer Konditionierungs-Phase (Erfahrung) bekam aber keine Instruktion und eine dritte Gruppe erhielt sowohl die Placebo-Nocebo Instruktion als auch die Placebo-Nocebo Konditionierung (Erfahrung + Erwartung). Es konnte gezeigt werden, dass während der anschließenden Testphase lediglich die kombinierte Erfahrung + Erwartung Gruppe signifikant unterschiedliche Schmerzratings und physiologische Reaktionen auf die Schmerzreize während der Placebo- im Vergleich zu den Nocebo-Durchgängen aufwies. Diese Ergebnisse belegen, dass die Induktion eines rein psychologischen Placebo-Nocebo Effektes auf die Schmerzwahrnehmung prinzipiell möglich ist. Besonders hervorzuheben ist dabei die Notwendigkeit beider Prozesse, nämlich einer tatsächlichen Erfahrung der Wirksamkeit der Therapie (Placebo-Nocebo Konditionierung) und einer positiven Erwartung hinsichtlich der Intervention (Placebo-Nocebo Instruktion). Neben Erfahrung und Erwartung, hat die momentane Stimmung entscheidenden Einfluss auf die die Induktion von Placebo- und Nocebo-Effekten einerseits, sowie generell auf die Wahrnehmung von Schmerz andererseits. In diesem Zusammenhang konnte gezeigt werden, dass Placebo-Effekte mit einer Verbesserung der Stimmung einhergehen, Nocebo-Effekte hingegen häufig von gesteigerter Angst begleitet sind. Um die Interaktion von Emotionen und Placebo-Nocebo Manipulationen zu eruieren, wurde das in Experiment 1 etablierte Paradigma angewendet und modifiziert. Anstelle von Streifenmustern, wurden positive und negative emotionale Bilder präsentiert, die entweder eine Schmerz-Verstärkung (Nocebo) oder eine Schmerz-Linderung (Placebo) anzeigten. Zwei Experimentalgruppen wurden miteinander verglichen, die sich hinsichtlich der Kontingenz von positiven Bildern als Placebo- und negativen Bildern als Nocebo-Indikator, bzw. umgekehrt, positiven Bildern als Nocebo- und negativen Bildern als Placebo-Indikator, unterschieden (kongruent vs. inkongruent). Es zeigte, dass die Unterscheidung (Schmerzratings und physiologische Reaktionen auf den Schmerzreiz) zwischen Placebo- und Nocebo-Durchgängen in der kongruenten Gruppe stärker ausgeprägt war als in der inkongruenten Gruppe. Allerdings waren die affektiven Schmerzratings der inkongruenten Gruppe ebenfalls in Nocebo-Durchgängen (positive Bilder) signifikant höher als in Placebo-Durchgängen (negative Bilder), ähnlich zur kongruenten Gruppe. Die Daten zeigen damit, dass eine Placebo-Nocebo Manipulation in der Lage ist, die genuin Schmerz verstärkende Wirkung negativer Emotionen abzuschwächen und sogar umzukehren. Die Befunde aus Experiment 2 konnten zusätzlich in Experiment 3 gestützt werden, welches das zuvor getestete Design ins fMRT überführte und gleichermaßen eine kongruente und eine inkongruente Experimentalgruppe miteinander verglich. Verhaltensmaße sowie physiologische und neurophysiologische Korrelate der Schmerzwahrnehmung ergaben eine eindeutige Differenzierung zwischen Placebo- und Nocebo-Durchgängen, unabhängig von der Experimentalgruppe. Darüber hinaus zeigte sich in der inkongruenten Bedingung eine verstärkte präfrontale Aktivierung für den Vergleich von Nocebo- und Placebo-Durchgängen, was potenziell auf einen zusätzlichen Re- Interpretations- oder Appraisal-Prozess zurückzuführen ist, der sich einstellt, wenn ein positives Bild eine negative Konsequenz vorhersagt. Zusammengefasst zeigen die vorliegenden Studien, dass es (a) möglich ist einen Placebo-Nocebo Effekt mit einer rein psychologischen Manipulation hervorzurufen, dass (b) im Fall rein psychologischer Placebo-Nocebo Manipulationen sowohl Erfahrung als auch positive Erwartung notwendig sind, dass (c) der Einfluss negativer Emotionen auf Schmerz mittels einer Placebo-Nocebo Manipulation reduziert und sogar umgekehrt werden kann und (d) höchstwahrscheinlich ein kognitiver (Neu-) Bewertungsprozess für die Induktion (psychologischer) Placebo-Nocebo Effekte essentiell ist. Die Ergebnisse tragen zum Verständnis der beteiligten psychologischen Prozesse bei der Induktion von Placebo-Nocebo Effekten erheblich bei. Darüber hinaus stellen die verwendeten Paradigmen eine vielseitige Ausgangsposition für zukünftige Studien dar, die klären müssen, ob für die gefunden Ergebnisse vornehmlich Placebo- oder Nocebo-Effekte verantwortlich sind. Perspektivisch könnten die vorliegenden Befunden helfen, die psychologischen Grundlagen der Placebo-Nocebo Antwort näher zu beleuchten und damit sogar im klinischen Kontext zum Ausschöpfen von Placebo- sowie zur Vorbeugung von Nocebo-Effekten beizutragen