Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Words easily trigger painful memories

Date:
March 31, 2010
Source:
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Summary:
"Watch out, it'll hurt for a second." Not only children but also many adults get uneasy when they hear those words from their doctor. And, as soon as the needle touches their skin the piercing pain can be felt very clearly. "After such an experience it is enough to simply imagine a needle at the next vaccination appointment to activate our pain memory," say researchers.

Professor Dr. Thomas Weiss and his doctoral candidate Maria Richter from Jena University examine how pain-associated words are processed in the brain.
Credit: Photo: Peter Scheere/FSU Jena

"Watch out, it'll hurt for a second." Not only children but also many adults get uneasy when they hear those words from their doctor. And, as soon as the needle touches their skin the piercing pain can be felt very clearly. "After such an experience it is enough to simply imagine a needle at the next vaccination appointment to activate our pain memory," knows Prof. Dr. Thomas Weiss from the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

As the scientist and his team from the Dept. of Biological and Clinical Psychology could show in a study for the first time it is not only the painful memories and associations that set our pain memory on the alert. "Even verbal stimuli lead to reactions in certain areas of the brain," claims Prof. Weiss. As soon as we hear words like "tormenting," "gruelling" or "plaguing," exactly those areas in the brain are being activated which process the corresponding pain. The psychologists from Jena University were able to examine this phenomenon using functional magnetic resonance tomography (fMRT). In their study they investigated how healthy subjects process words associated with experiencing pain. In order to prevent reactions based on a plain negative affect the subjects were also confronted with negatively connotated words like "terrifying," "horrible" or "disgusting" besides the proper pain words.

"Subject performed two tasks," explains Maria Richter, doctoral candidate in Weiss's team. "In a first task, subjects were supposed to imagine situations which correspond to the words," the Jena psychologist says. In a second task, subjects were also reading the words but they were distracted by a brain-teaser. "In both cases we could observe a clear activation of the pain matrix in the brain by pain-associated words," Maria Richter states. Other negatively connotated words, however, do not activate those regions. Neither for neutrally nor for positively connotated words comparable activity patterns could be examined.

Can words intensify chronic pain?

"These findings show that words alone are capable of activating our pain matrix," underlines Prof. Weiss. To save painful experiences is of biological advantage since it allows us to avoid painful situations in the future which might be dangerous for our lives. "However, our results suggest as well that verbal stimuli have a more important meaning than we have thought so far." For the Jena psychologist the question remains open which role the verbal confrontation with pain plays for chronic pain patients. "They tend to speak a lot about their experiencing of pain to their physician or physiotherapist," Maria Richter says. It is possible that those conversations intensify the activity of the pain matrix in the brain and therefore intensify the pain experience. This is what the Jena psychologists want to clarify in another study.

And so far it won't do any harm not to talk too much about pain. Maybe then the next injection will be only half as painful.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Richter M, Eck J, Straube T, Miltner WHR, Weiss T. Do words hurt? Brain activation during explicit and implicit processing of pain words. Pain, 2010;148(2):198-205

Cite This Page:

Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. "Words easily trigger painful memories." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330122706.htm>.
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. (2010, March 31). Words easily trigger painful memories. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330122706.htm
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. "Words easily trigger painful memories." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330122706.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins