Increased bias to report heat or pain following emotional priming of pain-related fear

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Emotional and attentional factors have been identified to play a significant role in modulating pain perception with negative emotions increasing pain sensitivity. Recent studies suggest that fearful images may activate the attentional components of fear driven behaviours and facilitate an attentional bias or sensitivity toward noxious stimuli. The current investigation examines whether priming of pain-related fear will affect performance by increasing sensitivity to punctuate heat stimuli. A modified version of the visual dot probe task was employed to provide priming of pain-related fear and a heat detection task was used to measure the effects of priming on sensitivity. The results indicated a significant facilitation of heat and pain perception at varying temperatures following emotional priming. In particular, there was an increase in the bias toward reporting a heat stimulus following emotional priming. The findings emphasise the efficacy of the visual dot probe task as a method of priming and provide a possible method for probing hypervigilance in chronic pain patients.

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