Spatial summation of pain is associated with pain expectations: Results from a homebased paradigm

Jakub Nastaj, Jacek Skalski, Aleksandra Budzisz, Tibor M. Szikszay, Sylwia Swoboda, Weronika Kowalska, Daria Nowak, Edyta Zbroja, Natalia Kruszyna, Marta Jakubińska, Dominika Grygny, Romuald Polczyk, Andrzej Malecki, Kerstin Luedtke, Waclaw M. Adamczyk*

*Corresponding author for this work


The purpose of this study was to reproduce the previously observed spatial summation of pain effect (SSp) using non-laboratory procedures and commercial equipment. An additional aim was to explore the association between expectations and SSp. The Cold Pressor Task (CPT) was used to induce SSp. Healthy participants (N = 68) immersed their non-dominant hands (divided into 5 segments) into cold water (CPT). Two conditions were used 1) gradual hand immersion (ascending condition) and 2) gradual hand withdrawal (descending condition). Pain intensity was measured on a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). Psychological factors, such as the participants' expectations of pain intensity were also measured on a VAS. Results showed significant SSp (χ2 (4) = 116.90, p < 0.001), reproduced with non-laboratory equipment in a home-based set-up. Furthermore, two novel findings were observed: i) there was a significant correlation between expectations and perceived pain, indicating a link between pain expectations and SSp, ii) spatial summation increased with the increase in duration exposure to the noxious stimulus (Wald χ2 (8) = 80.80, p < 0.001). This study suggests that SSp is associated with pain expectations and can be formed by a mixture of excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms potentially driven by temporal characteristics of neural excitation. Moreover, this study proposes a new feasible way to induce SSp using a homebased set-up.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0297067
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2 February
Pages (from-to)e0297067
Publication statusPublished - 02.2024

Research Areas and Centers

  • Health Sciences

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-03 Experimental and Theoretical Neurosciences of Networks
  • 206-07 Clinical Neurology Neurosurgery and Neuroradiology

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