Patient-centered interviewing is associated with decreased responses to painful stimuli: an initial fMRI study

Patient Educ Couns. 2013 Feb;90(2):220-5. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2012.10.021. Epub 2012 Nov 22.


Objective: To identify the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) changes associated with a patient-centered interview (PCI) and a positive provider-patient relationship (PPR).

Methods: Nine female patients participated, five randomly selected to undergo a replicable, evidence-based PCI, the other four receiving standard clinician-centered interviews (CCI). To verify that PCI differed from CCI, we rated the interviews and administered a patient satisfaction with the provider-patient relationship (PPR) questionnaire. Patients were then scanned as they received painful stimulation while viewing pictures of the interviewing doctor and control images (unknown doctor).

Results: Interview ratings and questionnaire results confirmed that PCIs and CCIs were performed as planned and PCIs led to a much more positive PPR. We found significantly reduced pain-related neural activation in the left anterior insula region in the PCI group when the interviewing doctor's picture was shown.

Conclusion: This study identifies an association between a PCI that produced a positive PPR and reduced pain-related neural responses in the anterior insula. This is an initial step in understanding the neural underpinnings of a PCI.

Practice implications: If confirmed, our results indicate one neurobiological underpinning of an effective PCI, providing an additional scientific rationale for its use clinically.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Perception / physiology*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires