Classical conditioning of pain responses

Int J Neurosci. 1994 Sep;78(1-2):21-32. doi: 10.3109/00207459408986042.


Classical conditioning is involved in the acquisition of chronic pain. The present study investigated whether experimental pain responses can be conditioned using auditory stimuli in a differential trace conditioning paradigm. 16 healthy subjects served as paid volunteers. The UCS was an intracutaneous electrical stimulus applied to the left middle-finger (10 ms duration). Tones of 1000 and 1400 Hz (both 80 dB SPL, 50 ms) were used as CS+ and CS-, respectively. A trace conditioning paradigm was used with an 800 ms interval between CS and UCS. Somatosensory event related potentials (SEP) and auditory event related potentials (AEP) were recorded from 29 electrode sites. Subjective pain reports were measured with an adjective list that allowed a detailed description of subjects' sensations elicited by painful and auditory stimuli. Data revealed significant differences of the subjective sensations between the CS+ and CS-, but no differences in the amplitudes and latencies of the P50, N100, P200, and P300 AEP components. No changes in the topographical organization of the CS+ and CS- were found. A significant differential negativity in the brain sites responsible for processing the UCS was obtained, which is attributed to the anticipation of the UCS after CS+ presentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Humans
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Surveys and Questionnaires