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Keeping an eye on pain: investigating visual attention biases in individuals with chronic pain using eye-tracking methodology

Authors Fashler SR, Katz J

Received 14 January 2016

Accepted for publication 5 May 2016

Published 10 August 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 551—561

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S104268

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Kerui Gong

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael Schatman

Samantha R Fashler, Joel Katz

Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Abstract:
Attentional biases to painful stimuli are evident in individuals with chronic pain, although the directional tendency of these biases (ie, toward or away from threat-related stimuli) remains unclear. This study used eye-tracking technology, a measure of visual attention, to evaluate the attentional patterns of individuals with and without chronic pain during exposure to injury-related and neutral pictures. Individuals with (N=51) and without chronic pain (N=62) completed a dot-probe task using injury-related and neutral pictures while their eye movements were recorded. Mixed-design analysis of variance evaluated the interaction between group (chronic pain, pain-free) and picture type (injury-related, neutral). Reaction time results showed that regardless of chronic pain status, participants responded faster to trials with neutral stimuli in comparison to trials that included injury-related pictures. Eye-tracking measures showed within-group differences whereby injury-related pictures received more frequent fixations and visits, as well as longer average visit durations. Between-group differences showed that individuals with chronic pain had fewer fixations and shorter average visit durations for all stimuli. An examination of how biases change over the time-course of stimulus presentation showed that during the late phase of attention, individuals with chronic pain had longer average gaze durations on injury pictures relative to pain-free individuals. The results show the advantage of incorporating eye-tracking methodology when examining attentional biases, and suggest future avenues of research.

Keywords: attentional biases, chronic pain, avoidance, hypervigilance, dot probe

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Other article by this author:

More than meets the eye: visual attention biases in individuals reporting chronic pain

Fashler SR, Katz J

Journal of Pain Research 2014, 7:557-570

Published Date: 19 September 2014