Gender differences in pain responses to calibrated noxious heat stimuli: a sensory decision theory analysis

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summaryObjectivesThis study aimed to examine how differences in male and female pain responses are using the sensory decision theory.MethodsThis study compared two independent samples of volunteer healthy subjects (males and females). Sensory decision theory (SDT) was used to distinguish between discriminability, P(A), and report criterion, B. Discriminability is the sensory component of pain, while report criterion represents the attitudinal components of pain. A pain generator generated thermal stimuli. Each subject received 10 stimuli at 36°C, 10 stimuli at 39°C, 10 stimuli at 42°C, 10 stimuli at 45°C, 10 stimuli at 47°C and 10 stimuli at 49°C. Immediately after each thermal stimulus, subjects were asked to report on the intensity of the stimulus on a scale of descriptors.ResultsOne hundred subjects (50 male and 50 female) participated in the study. The mean age was 26.9 (SD = 4.21). The thermal stimuli were grouped into high and low intensity blocks for data analysis. There was no difference in discriminability to high and intensity blocks for both between female and male. Females showed lower report criteria for both high and low intensity blocks than males and females were less stoical. Significant statistical differences were reported in the B high intensity blocks (t = −6.78, df = 98, p < 0.00) and B low intensity blocks (t = −6.92, df = 98, p < 0.00).ConclusionsThe study demonstrated differences in report criterion among females compared to males. It raised the question of whether this accounts for gender differences in pain prevalence. Further studies are warranted.

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