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Does monetary reward operantly enhance pain sensitivity over time? An experiment in healthy individuals

Authors Shiro Y, Ikemoto T, Hayashi K, Arai YC, Deie M, Ueno T

Received 27 May 2018

Accepted for publication 26 July 2018

Published 4 October 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 2161—2167


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael Schatman

Yukiko Shiro,1 Tatsunori Ikemoto,2 Kazuhiro Hayashi,3 Young-Chang Arai,4 Masataka Deie,2 Takefumi Ueno5

1Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Sciences, Nagoya Gakuin University, Aichi, Japan; 2Department of Orthopaedics, Aichi Medical University, Aichi, Japan; 3Department of Rehabilitation, Aichi Medical University, Aichi, Japan; 4Institute of Physical Fitness, Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of Medicine, Aichi Medical University, Aichi, Japan; 5National Hospital Organization Hizen Psychiatric Center, Saga, Japan

Aim: Operant conditioning has long been believed to influence the pain experience through a psychological reward pathway. This study was formulated to test the hypothesis that pain sensitivity may be enhanced >3 months if a monetary reward works as a reinforcement.
Methods: Forty healthy subjects volunteered to participate in this study. The subjects repeatedly underwent pain testing via mechanical stimuli, and they rolled dice three (or six) times to gain money at the following five time points: baseline, three reinforcement sessions, and last session. The payoff was determined by roll of the dice. The subjects were instructed to roll the dice into a masked stand three times per session and informed that no one monitored the number of dice actually appeared. The subjects were also informed that they could roll the dice another three times when they reported strong pain during reinforcement sessions.
Results: The amount of individual payoff had significantly increased at last session compared with the values obtained at baseline; however, no changes were identified in terms of the pain ratings for mechanical stimuli during all sessions.
Conclusion: The results suggest that the psychological reward pathway does not always involve pain perception, and it is difficult to conclude whether pain sensitivity is operantly changed through the monetary reward in healthy individuals. Further investigation is required.

Keywords: pain sensitivity, chronic pain, behavioral manipulation, reinforcement

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