The Moderating Role of Attention Control in the Relationship Between Pain Catastrophizing and Negatively-Biased Pain Memories in Youth With Chronic Pain

Aline Wauters, Melanie Noel, Dimitri M.L. Van Ryckeghem, Sabine Soltani, Tine Vervoort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present study examined the role of attention control in understanding the development of negatively-biased pain memories as well as its moderating role in the relationship between pain catastrophizing and negatively-biased pain memories. Youth with chronic pain (N = 105) performed a cold pressor task (CPT) and completed self-report measures of state/trait pain catastrophizing and attention control, with the latter comprising both attention focusing and attention shifting. Two weeks after the CPT, youth's pain-related memories were elicited via telephone allowing to compute pain and anxiety memory bias indices (ie, recalling pain intensity or pain-related anxiety, respectively, as higher than initially reported). Results indicated no main effects of attention control and pain catastrophizing on pain memories. However, both components of attention control (ie, attention focusing and attention shifting) moderated the impact of pain catastrophizing on youth's memory bias, with opposite interaction effects. Specifically, whereas high levels of attention shifting buffered the influence of high pain catastrophizing on the development of pain memory bias, high levels of attention focusing strengthened the influence of high pain catastrophizing on the development of anxiety memory bias. Interaction effects were confined to trait catastrophizing (ie, not state catastrophizing). Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed. PERSPECTIVE: This article investigates the role of attention control in the development of negatively-biased pain memories in children with chronic pain. Findings underscore the importance of targeting differential components of attention control and can inform intervention efforts to minimize the development of negatively biased pain memories in youth with chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Pain
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2021

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