AbstractBackground/aimsPain can interrupt and deteriorate executive task performance. We have previously shown that experimentally induced optimism can diminish the deteriorating effect of cold pressor pain on a subsequent working memory task (i.e., operation span task). In two successive experiments we sought further evidence for the protective role of optimism on pain-induced working memory impairments. We used another working memory task (i.e., 2-back task) that was performed either after or during pain induction.MethodsStudy 1 employed a 2 (optimism vs. no-optimism) × 2 (pain vs. no-pain) × 2 (pre-score vs. postscore) mixed factorial design. In half of the participants optimism was induced by the Best Possible Self (BPS) manipulation, which required them to write and visualize about a life in the future where everything turned out for the best. In the control condition, participants wrote and visualized a typical day in their life (TD). Next, participants completed either the cold pressor task (CPT) or a warm water control task (WWCT). Before (baseline) and after the CPT or WWCT participants working memory performance was measured with the 2-back task. The 2-back task measures the ability to monitor and update working memory representation by asking participants to indicate whether the current stimulus corresponds to the stimulus that was presented 2 stimuli ago. Study 2 had a 2 (optimism vs. no-optimism) × 2 (pain vs. no-pain) mixed factorial design. After receiving the BPS or control manipulation, participants completed the 2-back task twice: once with painful heat stimulation, and once without any stimulation (counterbalanced order). Continuous heat stimulation was used with temperatures oscillating around 1 °C above and 1 °C below the individual pain threshold.ResultsIn study 1, the results did not show an effect of cold pressor pain on subsequent 2-back task performance. Results of study 2 indicated that heat pain impaired concurrent 2-back task performance. However, no evidence was found that optimism protected against this pain-induced performance deterioration.ConclusionsExperimentally induced pain impairs concurrent but not subsequent working memory task performance. Manipulated optimism did not counteract pain-induced deterioration of 2-back performance.ImplicationsIt is important to explore factors that may diminish the negative impact of pain on the ability to function in daily life, as pain itself often cannot be remediated. We are planning to conduct future studies that should shed further light on the conditions, contexts and executive operations for which optimism can act as a protective factor.
Scandinavian Journal of Pain – de Gruyter
Published: Jul 1, 2016
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