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Papers of the Week

Papers: 12 Dec 2020 - 18 Dec 2020


Human Studies

2020 Dec 11

Sci Rep



Inter-individual predictors of pain inhibition during performance of a competing cognitive task.


Tabry V, Vogel TA, Lussier M, Brouillard P, Buhle J, Rainville P, Bherer L, Roy M
Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 11; 10(1):21785.
PMID: 33311585.


The main function of pain is to automatically draw attention towards sources of potential injury. However, pain sometimes needs to be inhibited in order to address or pursue more relevant tasks. Elucidating the factors that influence how people manage this relationship between pain and task performance is essential to understanding the disruptive nature of pain and its variability between individuals. Here, 41 healthy adults completed a challenging working memory task (2-back task) while receiving painful thermal stimulations. Examining the trial-by-trial relationship between pain perception and task performance revealed that pain's disruptive effects on performance were mediated by self-reported pain intensity, and that the analgesic effects of a competing task were influenced by task performance. We found that higher pain catastrophizing, higher trait anxiety, and lower trait mindfulness were associated with larger trade-offs between pain perception and task performance, suggesting that these psychological factors can predict increased fluctuations between disruption by pain and analgesia from a competing task. Altogether these findings provide an important and novel perspective on our understanding of individual differences in the interplay between pain and ongoing task performance.