I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 30 Nov 2019 - 6 Dec 2019


Human Studies

2020 Jan

Behav Res Ther


Generalization of instrumentally acquired pain-related avoidance to novel but similar movements using a robotic arm-reaching paradigm.



Avoidance is considered a key contributor to the development and maintenance of chronic pain disability, likely through its excessive generalization. This study investigated whether acquired avoidance behavior generalizes to novel but similar movements. Using a robotic arm, participants moved their arm from a starting to a target location via one of three possible movement trajectories. For the Experimental Group, the shortest, easiest trajectory was always paired with pain (T1 = 100% reinforcement/no resistance and deviation). Pain could be partly or completely avoided by choosing increasingly effortful movements (T2 = 50% reinforcement, moderate resistance/deviation; T3 = 0% reinforcement, strongest resistance/largest deviation). A Yoked Group received the same number of painful stimuli irrespective of their own behavior. Outcomes were self-reported fear of movement-related pain, pain-expectancy, avoidance behavior, (maximal deviation from the shortest trajectory), and trajectory choice behavior. We tested generalization to three novel trajectories (G1-3) positioned next to the acquisition trajectories. Whereas acquired fear of movement-related pain and pain-expectancy generalized in the Experimental Group, avoidance behavior did not, suggesting that threat beliefs and high-cost avoidance may not be directly related. The lack of avoidance generalization may be due to a perceived context-switch in the configurations of the acquisition and the generalization phases.