Format

Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2013 Dec 30;8(12):e83272. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083272. eCollection 2013.

The disruptive effects of pain on complex cognitive performance and executive control.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom ; Centre for Pain Research, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom.
2
Centre for Pain Research, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom.
3
Department of Computer Science, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Pain interferes and disrupts attention. What is less clear is how pain affects performance on complex tasks, and the strategies used to ensure optimal outcomes. The aim of the current study was to examine the effect of pain on higher-order executive control processes involved in managing complex tasks. Sixty-two adult volunteers (40 female) completed two computer-based tasks: a breakfast making task and a word generation puzzle. Both were complex, involving executive control functions, including goal-directed planning and switching. Half of those recruited performed the tasks under conditions of thermal heat pain, and half with no accompanying pain. Whilst pain did not affect central performance on either task, it did have indirect effects. For the breakfast task, pain resulted in a decreased ability to multitask, with performance decrements found on the secondary task. However, no effects of pain were found on the processes thought to underpin this task. For the word generation puzzle, pain did not affect task performance, but did alter subjective accounts of the processes used to complete the task; pain affected the perceived allocation of time to the task, as well as switching perceptions. Sex differences were also found. When studying higher-order cognitive processes, pain-related interference effects are varied, and may result in subtle or indirect changes in cognition.

PMID:
24386168
PMCID:
PMC3875458
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0083272
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center