This paper reports all experimental investigation of attentional engagement to and disengagement from cues of impending pain. Pain-free volunteers performed a cueing task in which they were instructed to detect somatosensory and tone targets. Target stimuli were preceded by visual cues informing participants of the modality of the impending stimuli. Participants were randomly assigned to a pain group (n = 54) or to a control group (n = 53). Somatosensory targets consisted of painful electrocutaileous stimuli in the pain group and non-painful vibrotactile targets in the control group. Analyses revealed a similar amount of attentional engagement to both cues signalling somatosensory targets, irrespective of their threat value. However, participants had significantly more difficulty in disengaging attention from a threatening cue of impending pain compared to a cue signalling the non-painful vibrotactile target. Our findings provide further evidence that pain cues demand attention, particularly resulting in impaired disengagement.
Van Damme, S., Crombez, G., Eccleston, C., & Goubert, L. (2004). Impaired disengagement from threatening cues of impending pain in a crossmodal cueing paradigm. European Journal of Pain, 8(3), 227-236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejpain.2003.08.005