Flexibility in attention for pain over changing contexts and its impact upon poor pain outcomes: An experimental investigation and training approach


CALL: 2018

DOMAIN: BM - Public Health


LAST NAME: Van Ryckeghem



HOST INSTITUTION: University of Luxembourg

KEYWORDS: Attention bias, Pain, attention flexibility, goals, motivation, post-operative pain, cognitive training, self-regulatory strength



WEBSITE: https://www.uni.lu

Submitted Abstract

Chronic pain is a major health problem in Luxembourg, resulting in reduced quality of life, discontinuation of labour or early retirement, and tremendous societal and economic costs. Available theoretical accounts of pain suggest that attention plays a pivotal role in the experience and the chronification of pain and associated distress and disability. In particular, the idea that the presence of an attention bias towards pain information is maladaptive and results in poor pain outcomes has received much attention. Research findings on this topic are however inconsistent. Within this research program, we draw upon the recently suggested dynamic perspective on attention for pain information, where competing goals and contextual variables play an important role. Based upon this perspective, the authors point at the importance of flexibility/rigidity of attention for pain information in varying contexts for poor pain outcomes. Using an innovative study paradigm (PainFlex paradigm) that overcomes methodological limitations (e.g., low ecological validity) of previous research, authors investigate key hypotheses of the proposed dynamic perspective. In particular the authors investigate: (1) the link between flexibility in attention for pain information, goal characteristics and participants’ self-regulatory strength; (2) the predictive value of flexibility in attention for pain information in changing contexts upon poor experimental pain outcomes in healthy participants and the presence of chronic pain after surgery. In a last stage of the project, the authors will use the project’s findings to develop a training procedure to increase flexibility in attention for pain information in order to improve pain outcomes.In sum, findings of current research program will increase the current understanding of the interplay between attention and pain and prove helpful to improve clinical interventions in line with the needs of pain patients.

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