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Cognitive Inhibition Correlates with Exercise-Induced Hypoalgesia After Aerobic Bicycling in Pain-Free Participants

Authors Gajsar H, Titze C, Konietzny K, Meyer M, Vaegter HB, Hasenbring MI

Received 15 November 2019

Accepted for publication 24 March 2020

Published 29 April 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 847—858

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S238718

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael A Überall


H Gajsar,1 C Titze,1 K Konietzny,1 M Meyer,2 HB Vaegter,3,4 MI Hasenbring1,3

1Mind and Pain in Motion Group, Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany; 2School of Social Sciences, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany; 3Department of Clinical Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark; 4Pain Research Group, Pain Center, University Hospital Odense, Odense, Denmark

Correspondence: H Gajsar
Mind and Pain in Motion Group, Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, Ruhr University Bochum, Universitätsstr, 150, Bochum 44809, Germany
Email Gajsar@medpsych.rub.de

Purpose: Exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH) is the short-term reduction of pain sensitivity after a single bout of exercise. Descending pain inhibition has been proposed to at least partly underlie EIH. Cognitive inhibition is the ability to inhibit a pre-potent response and has in turn been associated with descending pain inhibition, as indexed by conditioned pain modulation. Therefore, we hypothesized that cognitive inhibition is associated with higher EIH.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 37 pain-free participants (16 male, age 27.75 ± 9.91) completed a stop-signal task assessing cognitive inhibition ability and a control condition in the first session. In the second session, pre–post-test design EIH was assessed by means of aerobic bicycling (15 min., 75% VO2max) and isometric knee extension (90 sec, 30% MVC). EIH was assessed with pressure pain thresholds (PPT) and temporal summation of pain (TSP), each at the hand and at the leg. Correlational analyses quantified the associations between cognitive inhibition and EIH change scores.
Results: Better cognitive inhibition correlated with EIH change scores in PPTs after aerobic bicycling at the hand (r = − 0.35, 95% CI: − 0.57; − 0.08, p = 0.021), but not at the leg (rho = − 0.10, 95% CI: − 0.36; 0.18, p = 0.277). No correlations between cognitive inhibition and change in PPTs after isometric knee extension at the hand (rho = − 0.03, 95% CI: − 0.30; 0.25, p = 0.857) nor at the leg (rho = − 0.03, 95% CI: − 0.25; 0.30, p = 0.857) were observed. There were no EIH effects after isometric exercise and, generally, no effects of exercise on TSP.
Conclusion: This study provides preliminary evidence for the notion that cognitive inhibition might play a supportive role in EIH. Although these results are clearly in need of replication, they accord well with previously reported associations between cognitive inhibition, experimental pain and descending pain inhibition.

Keywords: descending pain inhibition, exercise-induced hypoalgesia, response inhibition, stop-signal task, pressure pain threshold, temporal summation of pain

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