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Schmerz. 2011 Jun;25(3):322-4. doi: 10.1007/s00482-011-1014-7.

[Pain words activate pain-processing neural structures].

[Article in German]

Author information

Institut für Psychologie, Lehrstuhl für Klinische und Biologische Psychologie, Am Steiger 3/1, 07743 Jena, Deutschland.


Previous studies suggested that areas of the neural"pain matrix" are activated by the processing of pain-related environmental cues such as pain-related pictures or descriptors of pain. However, it is still sketchy whether these activations are specific to the pain-relevant content of the stimuli or simply reflect a general effect of negative emotional valence or increased arousal. The present study addressed this question by investigating the neural mechanisms underlying the processing of pain-related, negative (non-pain-related), positive and neutral words. When subjects were instructed to image a situation associated with the word presented (imagination task), we found increased activation within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and inferior parietal cortex (IPC) when processing pain-related words compared to other words. When attention was focused on a distracting task (distraction task), we found a decrease in activation within the dorsal anterior cingulum (dACC) and a relative increase in activation within the subgenual anterior cingulum (sACC) when processing pain-related words compared to other words. These results indicate that the differences in processing pain-related words compared to non-pain-related words are specific to the content of the words and cannot simply be explained by emotional valence or arousal. Additionally, we showed that the specific activations to pain-related words are substantially modulated by the attention demands of the task.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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