The skin conductance response indicating pain relief is independent of self or social influence on pain

Marthe Gründahl, Leonie Retzlaff, Grit Hein, Marta Andreatta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Pain relief is defined as the ease of pain and is thus highly relevant for clinical applications and everyday life. Given that pain relief is based on the cessation of an aversive pain experience, it is reasonable to assume that pain relief learning would also be shaped by factors that alter subjective and physiological pain responses, such as social presence or a feeling of control. To date, it remains unclear whether and how factors that shape autonomic pain responses might affect pain relief learning. Here, we investigated how pain relief learning is shaped by two important factors known to modulate pain responses, i.e. social influence and controllability of pain. Skin conductance responses (SCRs) were recorded while participants learned to associate a formerly neutral stimulus with pain relief under three different pain conditions. In the social-influence condition (N = 34), the pain stimulation could be influenced by another person’s decisions. In the self-influence condition (N = 31), the participants themselves could influence the pain stimulation. Finally, in the no-influence condition (N = 32), pain stimulation was simply delivered without any influence. According to our results, the SCRs elicited by the stimulus that was associated with pain relief were significantly smaller compared to the SCRs elicited by a neutral control stimulus, indicating pain relief learning. However, there was no significant difference in the pain relief learning effect across the groups. These results suggest that physiological pain relief learning in humans is not significantly influenced by social influence and pain controllability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13978
JournalPsychophysiology
Volume59
Issue number3
Early online date2 Dec 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
GH was supported by the German Research Foundation (HE 4566/5‐1). LR was supported by a doctoral fellowship of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Würzburg, in the framework of the Graduate School of Life Sciences

Funding Information:
GH was supported by the German Research Foundation (HE 4566/5-1). LR was supported by a doctoral fellowship of the Faculty of Medicine, University of W?rzburg, in the framework of the Graduate School of Life Sciences

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Psychophysiology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Psychophysiological Research.

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