The influence of a manipulation of threat on experimentally-induced secondary hyperalgesia

Gillian J. Bedwell, Caron Louw, Romy Parker, Emanuel van den Broeke, Johan W. Vlaeyen, G. Lorimer Moseley, Victoria J. Madden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Pain is thought to be influenced by the threat value of the particular context in which it occurs. However, the mechanisms by which a threat achieves this influence on pain are unclear. Here, we explore how threat influences experimentally-induced secondary hyperalgesia, which is thought to be a manifestation of central sensitization. We developed an experimental study to investigate the effect of a manipulation of threat on experimentally-induced secondary hyperalgesia in 26 healthy human adults (16 identifying as female; 10 as male). We induced secondary hyperalgesia at both forearms using high-frequency electrical stimulation. Prior to the induction, we used a previously successful method to manipulate threat of tissue damage at one forearm (threat site). The effect of the threat manipulation was determined by comparing participant-rated anxiety, perceived threat, and pain during the experimental induction of secondary hyperalgesia, between the threat and control sites. We hypothesized that the threat site would show greater secondary hyperalgesia (primary outcome) and greater surface area (secondary outcome) of induced secondary hyperalgesia than the control site. Despite a thorough piloting procedure to test the threat manipulation, our data showed no main effect of site on pain, anxiety, or threat ratings during high-frequency electrical stimulation. In the light of no difference in threat between sites, the primary and secondary hypotheses cannot be tested. We discuss reasons why we were unable to replicate the efficacy of this established threat manipulation in our sample, including: (1) competition between threats, (2) generalization of learned threat value, (3) safety cues, (4) trust, and requirements for participant safety, (5) sampling bias, (6) sample-specific habituation to threat, and (7) implausibility of (sham) skin examination and report. Better strategies to manipulate threat are required for further research on the mechanisms by which threat influences pain.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13512
Number of pages32
JournalPEERJ
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • ANTERIOR INSULA
  • BACK-PAIN
  • CHRONIC PAIN
  • DESCENDING MODULATION
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Healthy volunteers
  • INFORMATION
  • LONG-TERM POTENTIATION
  • Mechanical hyperalgesia
  • Pain
  • RESILIENCE
  • RESPONSES
  • SOCIAL THREAT
  • STIMULATION
  • Secondary hyperalgesia
  • Threat

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