Generalization of instrumentally acquired pain-related avoidance to novel but similar movements using a robotic arm-reaching paradigm

Eveliina Glogan, Rena Gatzounis, Michel Meulders, Ann Meulders*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Avoidance is considered a key contributor to the development and maintenance of chronic pain disability, likely through its excessive generalization. This study investigated whether acquired avoidance behavior generalizes to novel but similar movements. Using a robotic arm, participants moved their arm from a starting to a target location via one of three possible movement trajectories. For the Experimental Group, the shortest, easiest trajectory was always paired with pain (T1 = 100% reinforcement/no resistance and deviation). Pain could be partly or completely avoided by choosing increasingly effortful movements (T2 = 50% reinforcement, moderate resistance/deviation; T3 = 0% reinforcement, strongest resistance/largest deviation). A Yoked Group received the same number of painful stimuli irrespective of their own behavior. Outcomes were self-reported fear of movement-related pain, pain-expectancy, avoidance behavior, (maximal deviation from the shortest trajectory), and trajectory choice behavior. We tested generalization to three novel trajectories (G1-3) positioned next to the acquisition trajectories. Whereas acquired fear of movement-related pain and pain-expectancy generalized in the Experimental Group, avoidance behavior did not, suggesting that threat beliefs and high-cost avoidance may not be directly related. The lack of avoidance generalization may be due to a perceived context-switch in the configurations of the acquisition and the generalization phases.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103525
Number of pages13
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume124
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Keywords

  • Avoidance behavior
  • Fear generalization
  • Avoidance generalization
  • Chronic pain
  • Operant conditioning
  • CHRONIC MUSCULOSKELETAL PAIN
  • CONDITIONED FEAR
  • ACQUISITION
  • EXTINCTION
  • VALIDATION
  • MODEL
  • STATE
  • PREDICTABILITY
  • CONSEQUENCES
  • VALIDITY

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