[Paleopsych] pain perception
Todd I. Stark
thrst4knw at aol.com
Mon Nov 14 16:41:41 UTC 2005
I think this is a very rich and productive topic.
Since pain perception would presumably be among the most primitive and
basic of perceptual experiences biologically and is of particular
medical significance, it has been of great interest in research and
there is a fair amount of data on it so far. It appears that perception
of pain is a very complex combination of physical stimuli, signal
transmission, neural regulation at various levels, and social and
psychological factors that alter expectancy, mood, and attention. This
combines with individual genetic differences to produce what is usually
envisioned as a matrix of different factors affecting the perception of
pain in different people.
One important point is that we are talking about at least two different
levels: (1) acute perception and (2) long term coping. Acute perception
varies more dramatically between individuals due to talents. There
seems to be a more readily identifiable genetic basis for dramatic
differences in acute pain perception than differences in chronic pain
About 15% of the population have a radically different experience of
acute pain simply because their expectations about it are different.
This can mean _either_ experiencing MORE pain or LESS pain. Those are
the people with whom suggestion can dramatically alleviate (or
exacerbate!) acute pain. In a different 15%, their expectations affect
the experience of acute pain little or not at all. In almost everyone,
our expectations influence our perception of chronic pain and how well
we cope with it. In the remaining 70% of the population, expectancy
seems to modulate acute pain slightly to moderately well.
It also turns out that, perhaps not unexpectedly, women modulate pain in
a much more complex way than men related to hormonal mechanisms.
[ http://www.the-scientist.com/2005/03/28/S27/1 ]
Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. wrote on 11/12/2005, 1:33 PM:
> Comment: We know now that activity changes the structure of the brain.
> Violinists, for example, have a larger motor strip; London taxi drivers
> have a larger hippocampus. So what this news doesn't say is the
> cause/effect relationship. Why wouldn't enough trauma overwhelm and
> ventromedial prefrontal cortex? Hum??? Why wouldn't children taught
> hardiness cognitive strategies then develop a more robust frontal lobe?
> We have seen a number of these studies, and all are vulnerable to the
> post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Another factor they seem to overlook
> is habitual level of happiness. People who are more happy are less
> intimidated by pain (like the small shocks) and actually rate the same
> cold-pressor pain stimulus as less painful than less happy people.
> Thanks for the provocative article, Frank.
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