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J Psychosom Res. 2010 Sep;69(3):279-87. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2010.05.002. Epub 2010 Jul 3.

Generalized hypervigilance in fibromyalgia patients: an experimental analysis with the emotional Stroop paradigm.

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Department of Psychology, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Avda Atenas s/n, Madrid, Spain.



In recent years, a good deal of serious research has been carried out on the hypothesized presence of generalized hypervigilance to sensory stimulation in fibromyalgia (FM). However, there are no studies which, following an operationalization of generalized hypervigilance as a propensity to attend to any task-irrelevant stimuli presented, make use of interference paradigms as the most appropriate experimental models for its analysis. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis of generalized hypervigilance in FM using the emotional modification of the Stroop task and to explore the possible mediating role of anxiety.


To this end, 25 women diagnosed with fibromyalgia and 25 matched controls were shown 32 stimulus words equally distributed in four categories: fibromyalgia symptoms, arousing-negative (A-), arousing-positive (A+), and neutral (N). These words had been selected on the basis of the results of an independent study. In addition to the emotional Stroop task, measures of trait and state anxiety were included.


The results showed the possible presence of a generalized hypervigilance response in fibromyalgia patients based on significant slowness in the color-naming. This effect was mediated by the degree of perceived unpleasantness of the A-stimuli. However, the expected mediation effect of anxiety was not found.


These results suggest the presence of a generalized hypervigilance response in FM patients that is not mediated by anxiety. Implications for the correct functioning of controlled self-regulatory processes in fibromyalgia and similar pathologies are discussed.

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