Perceptual sensory attenuation in chronic pain subjects and healthy controls

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We investigated whether sensory attenuation (or failure of) might be an explanation for heightened pain perceptions in individuals with chronic pain. N = 131 (50% chronic pain) individuals underwent a single experimental session, which included the force-matching task and several self-reported symptom and psychological measures. Individuals matched a force delivered to their finger, either by pressing directly on their own finger with their other hand (direct) or by using potentiometer to control the force through a torque motor (slider). All participants overestimated the target force in the direct condition reflecting the sensory attenuation phenomenon. No differences in the magnitude of sensory attenuation between chronic pain and control groups were observed (direct: Z = − 0.90, p = 0.37 and slider: Z = − 1.41, p = 0.16). An increased variance of sensory attenuation was observed in chronic pain individuals (direct: F(1, 129) = 7.22, p = 0.008 and slider: F(1, 129), p = 0.05). Performance in the slider condition was correlated with depressive symptoms (r = − 0.24, p = 0.05), high symptom count (r = − 0.25, p = 0.04) and positive affect (r = 0.28, p = 0.02). These were only identified in the chronic pain individuals. Overall, our findings reveal no clear differences in the magnitude of sensory attenuation between groups. Future research is needed to determine the relevance of sensory attenuation in neuro-cognitive models related to pain perception.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8958
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2022

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