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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 May 2020 - 22 May 2020


Human Studies

2020 May 20


Clinical relevance of attentional biases in pediatric chronic pain: an eye-tracking study.


Soltani S, Van Ryckeghem DML, Vervoort T, Heathcote LC, Yeates KO, Sears C, Noel M
Pain. 2020 May 20.
PMID: 34285155.


Attentional biases have been posited as one of the key mechanisms underlying the development and maintenance of chronic pain and co-occurring internalizing mental health symptoms. Despite this theoretical prominence, a comprehensive understanding of the nature of biased attentional processing in chronic pain and its relationship to theorized antecedents and clinical outcomes is lacking, particularly in youth. This study used eye-tracking to assess attentional bias for painful facial expressions and its relationship to theorized antecedents of chronic pain and clinical outcomes. Youth with chronic pain (n = 125) and without chronic pain (n = 52) viewed face images of varying levels of pain expressiveness while their eye gaze was tracked and recorded. At baseline, youth completed questionnaires to assess pain characteristics, theorized antecedents (pain catastrophizing, fear of pain, and anxiety sensitivity), and clinical outcomes (pain intensity, interference, anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress). For youth with chronic pain, clinical outcomes were reassessed at 3 months to assess for relationships with attentional bias while controlling for baseline symptoms. In both groups, youth exhibited an attentional bias for painful facial expressions. For youth with chronic pain, attentional bias was not significantly associated with theorized antecedents or clinical outcomes at baseline or 3-month follow-up. These findings call into question the posited relationships between attentional bias and clinical outcomes. Additional studies using more comprehensive and contextual paradigms for the assessment of attentional bias are required to clarify the ways in which such biases may manifest and relate to clinical outcomes.