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Papers of the Week

Papers: 20 Jan 2024 - 26 Jan 2024

2024 Jan 19

J Pain


Investigating object affordance in people with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: No alterations in the automatic activation of motor plans.


Ten Brink AF, España MF, Navarro V, Chris Dijkerman H, Bultitude JH


Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a condition of chronic pain, predominantly affecting one limb. CRPS is characterised by motor changes including slowed or uncoordinated movements. Cognitive processes that drive movement planning and/or execution might contribute to these changes. We aimed to investigate potential alterations to such cognitive mechanisms using an ‘object affordance’ paradigm. Object affordance refers to the observation that viewing an object modulates associated motor responses, presumably due to the automatic activation of a motor plan. We hypothesized that people with CRPS would show reduced object affordance effects for their affected compared to unaffected hand, and compared to pain-free controls. First, we validated an online object affordance task involving button press responses to everyday objects with handles, in pain-free participants (n=63; Experiment 1). Object affordance was reflected by faster and more accurate responses when the object handle was aligned to the responding hand (“aligned”) compared to when the handle was aligned to the other hand (“non-aligned”). These results were similar for the online task as when administered in person. Second, in a case-control study, we administered the online object affordance task to people with CRPS predominantly affecting upper limb (n=25), and age-matched pain-free controls (n=68; Experiment 2). People with CRPS responded faster and more accurately in the aligned versus non-aligned condition (i.e., an object affordance effect), both for the affected and unaffected hands. There were no differences to pain-free participants. Therefore, object affordance effects were seen in people with CRPS, providing no evidence for altered motor planning. PERSPECTIVE: This article presents research investigating cognitive processes related to motor planning in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Using an online object affordance paradigm, validated in pain-free controls, the authors found that people with CRPS showed intact object affordance effects in the affected and unaffected hand, suggesting unaltered motor planning. DATA AVAILABILITY: The experiment materials, data, pre-processing scripts, and analysis scripts can be found via Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/nc825/files/osfstorage).