Age-associated changes in multimodal pain perception

Age Ageing. 2024 May 1;53(5):afae107. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afae107.


Background: Pain sensitivity varies across multimodal somatosensory stimuli that can rely on different conductive fibres, which, when damaged, will lead to neuropathies. However, there is limited research examining the characteristics of perceived pain, particularly as affected by the ageing process, as induced by various somatosensory stimuli that may rely on small or large fibres.

Methods: Using heat and pressure stimuli on small and large fibres separately on both younger and older adults, this study examined age-associated changes in pain perception by measuring self-reported pain sensitivity, pain threshold and pain discriminability.

Results: Heat pain threshold was significantly positively correlated with age, but not pressure pain threshold. Pain threshold increased and pain discriminability decreased in response to heat stimuli in the older participants compared with the younger ones.

Conclusion: An age-associated decline in heat pain perception was observed, suggesting an earlier degradation of heat perception. These findings provide new insight into understanding and assessing somatosensory disorders, which can help ageing populations better maintain healthy sensory functioning.

Keywords: ageing; heat; older people; pain; pressure; somatosensory.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging* / physiology
  • Aging* / psychology
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement* / methods
  • Pain Perception*
  • Pain Threshold*
  • Pressure
  • Young Adult