Visual Sensitivity in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Fibromyalgia: An Online Study

Antonia F. Ten Brink, Janet H. Bultitude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


Perceptual anomalies can provide insights into underlying pathologies even when they are not the main symptom of many clinical conditions. Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and fibromyalgia are chronic pain conditions associated with changes in the central nervous system, possibly leading to enhanced visual sensitivity. It is unclear whether this occurs more than for people with other types of pain. We examined visual sensitivity elicited by different stimuli and in daily life, through an online study of people with CRPS (n = 57), fibromyalgia (n = 74), other pain (n = 50), and no pain (n = 89). Respondents rated changes in pain, discomfort, or distress from viewing patterns with different spatial frequencies (lower-order visual processing), and reversible figures (bistable images; higher-order visual processing). We assessed visual sensitivity in daily life using the Leiden Visual Sensitivity Scale and Visual Discomfort Scale. Respondents with CRPS or fibromyalgia reported more visual discomfort than pain-related and pain-free controls while viewing striped patterns and a circle, with no effect of spatial frequency. They reported more pain while viewing a nonreversible square, but not reversible figures (Necker Cube, Duck/Rabbit). Finally, they reported more daily visual sensitivity than pain-related and pain-free controls. Suppressing visual cortical activity might benefit people with CRPS or fibromyalgia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-209
Number of pages23
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Antonia F. Ten Brink was supported by a Rubicon grant (019.173SG.019) from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The funder had no role in study design, analysis, and interpretation of data, writing the report, and the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • bistable image
  • complex regional pain syndrome
  • fibromyalgia
  • pattern glare
  • reversible figures
  • visual allodynia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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