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

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

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Title: Keeping an eye on pain: investigating visual attention biases in individuals with chronic pain using eye-tracking methodology
Author: Fashler, S.R.
Katz, J.
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.
Sponsor: We are grateful to Dr Paul Ritvo for his assistance. Samantha Fashler was supported by an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) CGS Master’s Award, and a CIHR Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. Joel Katz is supported by a CIHR Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Health Psychology. Funds to support the project were obtained from Dr Katz’s CRC and Dr Ritvo’s Federal Development Program. This article was derived, in part, from Samantha Fashler’s Master’s thesis. The research in this manuscript was presented as a poster presentation at the Canadian Pain Society in May 2014. An abstract of the poster was published in Pain Research & Management (vol 19, issue 3, e31–e102, 2014).
Subject: attentional biases, chronic pain, avoidance, hypervigilance, dot probe
Type: Article
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
JPR-104268-attention-allocation-differs-in-people-with-pain-who-orient_081016.pdf https://www.dovepress.com/journal-of-pain-research-journal
https://www.dovepress.com/
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/32591
Published: Dovepress
Citation: Fashler, S., & Katz, J. (2016). Keeping an eye on pain: Investigating visual attention biases in individuals with chronic pain using eye-tracking methodology. Journal of Pain Research, 9, 551–561. http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S104268
ISSN: 1178-7090
Date: 10/08/2016

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