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Pain. 2005 Dec 5;118(3):306-18. Epub 2005 Nov 14.

Pain-related emotions modulate experimental pain perception and autonomic responses.

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Département de Stomatologie, Faculté de médecine dentaire, Université de Montréal, CP. 6128, Succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, Que., Canada H3C 1J7.


The effect of emotions on pain perception is generally recognized but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here, emotions related to pain were induced in healthy volunteers using hypnosis, during 1-min immersions of the hand in painfully hot water. In Experiment 1, hypnotic suggestions were designed to induce various positive or negative emotions. Compared to a control condition with hypnotic-relaxation, negative emotions produced robust increases in pain. In Experiment 2, induction of pain-related anger and sadness were found to increase pain. Pain increases were associated with increases in self-rated desire for relief and decreases in expectation of relief, and with increases in arousal, negative affective valence and decreases in perceived control. In Experiment 3, hypnotic suggestions specifically designed to increase and decrease the desire for relief produced increases and decreases in pain, respectively. In all three experiments, emotion-induced changes in pain were most consistently found on ratings of pain unpleasantness compared to pain intensity. Changes in pain-evoked cardiac responses (R-R interval decrease), measured in experiments 2 and 3, were consistent with changes in pain unpleasantness. Correlation and multiple regression analyses suggest that negative emotions and desire for relief influence primarily pain affect and that pain-evoked autonomic responses are strongly associated with pain affect. These results confirm the hypothesized influence of the desire for relief on pain perception, and particularly on pain affect, and support the functional relation between pain affect and autonomic nociceptive responses. This study provides further experimental confirmation that pain-related emotions influence pain perception and pain-related physiological responses.

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