The application of conditioning paradigms in the measurement of pain

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Pain is a private experience that involves both sensory and emotional components. Animal studies of pain can only be inferred by their responses, and therefore the measurement of reflexive responses dominates the pain literature for nearly a century. It has been argued that although reflexive responses are important to unveil the sensory nature of pain in organisms, pain affect is equally important but largely ignored in pain studies primarily due to the lack of validated animal models. One strategy to begin to understand pain affect is to use conditioning principles to indirectly reveal the affective condition of pain. This review critically analyzed several procedures that are thought to measure affective learning of pain. The procedures regarding the current knowledge, the applications, and their advantages and disadvantages in pain research are discussed. It is proposed that these procedures should be combined with traditional reflex-based pain measurements in future studies of pain, which could greatly benefit both the understanding of neural underpinnings of pain and preclinical assessment of novel analgesics.

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