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Papers of the Week

Papers: 2 Feb 2019 - 8 Feb 2019

Human Studies

2018 Sep-Oct




Motor Responses to Noxious Stimuli Shape Pain Perception in Chronic Pain Patients.


Heitmann H, May ES, Tiemann L, Schmidt P, Nickel MM, Dinh S T, Hohn VD, Tölle TR, Ploner M
eNeuro. 2018 Sep-Oct; 5(5).
PMID: 30713993.


Pain serves vital protective functions, which crucially depend on appropriate motor responses to noxious stimuli. Such responses not only depend on but can themselves shape the perception of pain. In chronic pain, perception is often decoupled from noxious stimuli and motor responses are no longer protective, which suggests that the relationships between noxious stimuli, pain perception, and behavior might be changed. We here performed a simple experiment to quantitatively assess the relationships between noxious stimuli, perception and behavior in 22 chronic pain patients and 22 age-matched healthy human participants. Brief noxious and tactile stimuli were applied to the participants' hands and participants performed speeded motor responses and provided perceptual ratings of the stimuli. Multi-level moderated mediation analyses assessed the relationships between stimulus intensity, perceptual ratings and reaction times for both stimulus types. The results revealed a significantly stronger involvement of motor responses in the translation of noxious stimuli into perception than in the translation of tactile stimuli into perception. This significant influence of motor responses on pain perception was found for both chronic pain patients and healthy participants. Thus, stimulus-perception-behavior relationships appear to be at least partially preserved in chronic pain patients and motor-related as well as behavioral interventions might harness these functional relationships to modulate pain perception.