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Emotions Influence Perception of Pain

A new Canadian study shows that the power of the mind can directly influence the perception of pain. The finding confirms that complimentary or alternative approaches can help alleviate or diminish pain.

In the study, scientists from Université de Montréal found that negative and positive emotions have a direct impact on pain. Their research is published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

According to lead author Mathieu Roy, “Our tests revealed when pain is perceived by our brain and how that pain can be amplified when combined with negative emotions.”

As part of the study, 13 subjects were recruited to undergo small yet painful electric shocks, which caused knee-jerk reactions controlled by the spine that could be measured.

During the fMRI process, subjects were shown a succession of images that were either pleasant (i.e. summer water-skiing), unpleasant (i.e. a vicious bear) or neutral (i.e. a book). Brain reaction was simultaneously measured in participants through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The fMRI readings allowed the scientists to divide emotion-related brain activity from pain-related reactions.

“We found that seeing unpleasant pictures elicited stronger pain in subjects getting shocks than looking at pleasant pictures,” says Dr. Roy.

The discovery provides scientific evidence that pain is governed by mood and builds on Dr. Roy’s previous studies that showed how pleasant music could decrease aches.

“Our findings show that non-pharmaceutical interventions – mood enhancers such as photography or music – could be used in health care to help alleviate pain. These interventions would be inexpensive and adaptable to several fields,” he stresses.

Source: University of Montreal

Emotions Influence Perception of Pain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Emotions Influence Perception of Pain. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/11/11/emotions-influence-perception-of-pain/9482.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Jul 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jul 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.