Do Tonic Itch and Pain Stimuli Draw Attention towards Their Location?

Antoinette I. M. van Laarhoven*, Stefaan van Damme, A. (Sjan) P. M. Lavrijsen, Dimitri M. van Ryckeghem, Geert Crombez, Andrea W. M. Evers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Background. Although itch and pain are distinct experiences, both are unpleasant, may demand attention, and interfere with daily activities. Research investigating the role of attention in tonic itch and pain stimuli, particularly whether attention is drawn to the stimulus location, is scarce. Methods. In the somatosensory attention task, fifty-three healthy participants were exposed to 35-second electrical itch or pain stimuli on either the left or right wrist. Participants responded as quickly as possible to visual targets appearing at the stimulated location (ipsilateral trials) or the arm without stimulation (contralateral trials). During control blocks, participants performed the visual task without stimulation. Attention allocation at the itch and pain location is inferred when responses are faster ipsilaterally than contralaterally. Results. Results did not indicate that attention was directed towards or away from the itch and pain location. Notwithstanding, participants were slower during itch and pain than during control blocks. Conclusions. In contrast with our hypotheses, no indications were found for spatial attention allocation towards the somatosensory stimuli. This may relate to dynamic shifts in attention over the time course of the tonic sensations. Our secondary finding that itch and pain interfere with task performance is in-line with attention theories of bodily perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2031627
Number of pages11
JournalBioMed Research International
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • FEAR-AVOIDANCE MODEL
  • CATASTROPHIC THINKING
  • SPATIAL ATTENTION
  • MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN
  • TASK-PERFORMANCE
  • DAILY-LIFE
  • BIAS
  • IMPACT
  • DISENGAGEMENT
  • INFORMATION

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