The effects of attentional and interpretation biases on later pain outcomes among younger and older adults: A prospective study

Frederick H.F. Chan, Hin Suen, Antoni B. Chan, Janet H. Hsiao, Tom J. Barry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Background: Studies examining the effect of biased cognitions on later pain outcomes have primarily focused on attentional biases, leaving the role of interpretation biases largely unexplored. Also, few studies have examined pain-related cognitive biases in elderly persons. The current study aims to fill these research gaps. Methods: Younger and older adults with and without chronic pain (N = 126) completed an interpretation bias task and a free-viewing task of injury and neutral scenes at baseline. Participants’ pain intensity and disability were assessed at baseline and at a 6-month follow-up. A machine-learning data-driven approach to analysing eye movement data was adopted. Results: Eye movement analyses revealed two common attentional pattern subgroups for scene-viewing: an “explorative” group and a “focused” group. At baseline, participants with chronic pain endorsed more injury-/illness-related interpretations compared to pain-free controls, but they did not differ in eye movements on scene images. Older adults interpreted illness-related scenarios more negatively compared to younger adults, but there was also no difference in eye movements between age groups. Moreover, negative interpretation biases were associated with baseline but not follow-up pain disability, whereas a focused gaze tendency for injury scenes was associated with follow-up but not baseline pain disability. Additionally, there was an indirect effect of interpretation biases on pain disability 6 months later through attentional bias for pain-related images. Conclusions: The present study provided evidence for pain status and age group differences in injury-/illness-related interpretation biases. Results also revealed distinct roles of interpretation and attentional biases in pain chronicity. Significance: Adults with chronic pain endorsed more injury-/illness-related interpretations than pain-free controls. Older adults endorsed more illness interpretations than younger adults. A more negative interpretation bias indirectly predicted pain disability 6 months later through hypervigilance towards pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-196
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain (United Kingdom)
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the University of Hong Kong Seed Fund for Basic Research (grant number 201711159097).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 European Pain Federation - EFIC®

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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