The disruptive nature of pain: an experimental investigation

Behav Res Ther. 1996 Nov-Dec;34(11-12):911-8. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7967(96)00058-7.


Pain interrupts, distracts and takes effort to ignore. Focusing our research attention upon this central aspect of pain experience, an experimental paradigm is introduced to study the disruptive nature of pain. Healthy volunteers were exposed several times to an electrical pain stimulus and a control stimulus. Tone probes were presented immediately (100 ms) and later on (1500 ms) after pain/control onset, and after pain/control offset (1000 ms). Results clearly showed disruption during pain. This disruptive effect was most marked immediately after onset. No differential results between pain and control conditions were observed later on during the pain experience. These results are interpreted within current cognitive and psychophysiological theories of attention. Emphasis is placed upon the importance of the experimental investigation of the role of attention in pain processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arousal
  • Attention*
  • Electroshock
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Threshold
  • Pitch Discrimination