Pain is a protective perceptual response shaped by contextual, psychological, and sensory inputs that suggest danger to the body. Sensory cues suggesting that a body part is moving toward a painful position may credibly signal the threat and thereby modulate pain. In this experiment, we used virtual reality to investigate whether manipulating visual proprioceptive cues could alter movement-evoked pain in 24 people with neck pain. We hypothesized that pain would occur at a lesser degree of head rotation when visual feedback overstated true rotation and at a greater degree of rotation when visual feedback understated true rotation. Our hypothesis was clearly supported: When vision overstated the amount of rotation, pain occurred at 7% less rotation than under conditions of accurate visual feedback, and when vision understated rotation, pain occurred at 6% greater rotation than under conditions of accurate visual feedback. We concluded that visual-proprioceptive information modulated the threshold for movement-evoked pain, which suggests that stimuli that become associated with pain can themselves trigger pain.
Keywords: body representation; illusions; movement; multisensory processing; open data; pain; perception; redirected walking; virtual reality.
© The Author(s) 2015.