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Papers of the Week

Papers: 14 Sep 2019 - 20 Sep 2019


Human Studies

2019 Sep 10

Nat Commun



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Different brain networks mediate the effects of social and conditioned expectations on pain.


Koban L, Jepma M, López-Solà M, Wager TD
Nat Commun. 2019 Sep 10; 10(1):4096.
PMID: 31506426.


Information about others' experiences can strongly influence our own feelings and decisions. But how does such social information affect the neural generation of affective experience, and are the brain mechanisms involved distinct from those that mediate other types of expectation effects? Here, we used fMRI to dissociate the brain mediators of social influence and associative learning effects on pain. Participants viewed symbolic depictions of other participants' pain ratings (social information) and classically conditioned pain-predictive cues before experiencing painful heat. Social information and conditioned stimuli each had significant effects on pain ratings, and both effects were mediated by self-reported expectations. Yet, these effects were mediated by largely separable brain activity patterns, involving different large-scale functional networks. These results show that learned versus socially instructed expectations modulate pain via partially different mechanisms-a distinction that should be accounted for by theories of predictive coding and related top-down influences.