Memory for pain

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Abstract

Memory for head pain was assessed by means of the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ). Sixteen neurosurgical patients were divided into two groups in order to examine the decay of memory over time; one group recalled pain after 5 days and the other recalled pain after one day and then again, after 5 days.

Contrary to expectations, the recall of pain was surprisingly accurate. The memory for pain showed little decay over time. The small subgroup of patients who made specific errors when recalling their pain comprised women who had high levels of pain and affect at the initial assessment. Overall, the findings provide some welcome reassurance about the accuracy and reliability of pain reports from memory.

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