Attentional biases in pediatric chronic pain: an eye-tracking study assessing the nature of the bias and its relation to attentional control

Sabine Soltani*, Dimitri M. L. van Ryckeghem, Tine Vervoort, Lauren C. Heathcote, Keith Yeates, Christopher Sears, Melanie Noel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Attentional biases are posited to play a key role in the development and maintenance of chronic pain in adults and youth. However, research to date has yielded mixed findings, and few studies have examined attentional biases in pediatric samples. This study used eye-gaze tracking to examine attentional biases to pain-related stimuli in a clinical sample of youth with chronic pain and pain-free controls. The moderating role of attentional control was also examined. Youth with chronic pain (n = 102) and pain-free controls (n = 53) viewed images of children depicting varying levels of pain expressiveness paired with neutral faces while their eye gaze was recorded. Attentional control was assessed using both a questionnaire and a behavioural task. Both groups were more likely to first fixate on high pain faces but showed no such orienting bias for moderate or low pain faces. Youth with chronic pain fixated longer on all pain faces than neutral faces, whereas youth in the control group exhibited a total fixation bias only for high and moderate pain faces. Attentional control did not moderate attentional biases between or within groups. The results lend support to theoretical models positing the presence of attentional biases in youth with chronic pain. Further research is required to clarify the nature of attentional biases and their relationship to clinical outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2263-2273
Number of pages11
JournalPain
Volume161
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • Pediatric
  • Attentional bias
  • Attentional control
  • Eye-tracking
  • FUNCTIONAL ABDOMINAL-PAIN
  • FEAR-AVOIDANCE MODEL
  • MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN
  • SELECTIVE ATTENTION
  • SOCIAL THREAT
  • CHILDREN
  • ADOLESCENTS
  • ANXIETY
  • INDIVIDUALS
  • SYMPTOMS

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