Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Listen up, doc: Empathy raises patients' pain tolerance

Date:
December 3, 2012
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
A doctor-patient relationship built on trust and empathy doesn't just put patients at ease -- it actually changes the brain's response to stress and increases pain tolerance, according to new findings.

A doctor-patient relationship built on trust and empathy doesn't just put patients at ease -- it actually changes the brain's response to stress and increases pain tolerance, according to new findings from a Michigan State University research team.

Medical researchers have shown in recent studies that doctors who listen carefully have happier patients with better health outcomes, but the underlying mechanism was unknown, said Issidoros Sarinopoulos, professor of radiology at MSU.

"This is the first study that has looked at the patient-centered relationship from a neurobiological point of view," said Sarinopoulos, the lead researcher. "It's important for doctors and others who advocate this type of relationship with the patient to show that there is a biological basis."

The study involved randomly assigning patients to one of two types of interview with a doctor before undergoing an MRI scan. In the patient-centered approach, doctors addressed any concerns participants had about the procedure and asked open-ended questions allowing them to talk freely about their jobs, home life and other psychological and social factors affecting health. The other patients were asked only specific questions about clinical information such as their medical history and what drugs they were taking.

As expected, those who had the patient-focused interview reported greater satisfaction and confidence in their doctor in a post interview questionnaire.

The participants then were placed in the MRI scanner and given a series of mild electric shocks, similar to the discomfort of having an IV needle inserted, while looking at a photo of a doctor who they were told was supervising the procedure. The scans measured activity in the anterior insula -- the part of the brain that makes people aware of pain -- in anticipation of the shocks and when they actually occurred.

The brain scans revealed those who had the patient-centered interview showed less activity in the anterior insula when they were looking at a photo of the interviewing doctor than when the doctor in the photo was unknown. Those participants also self-reported less pain when the photos showed the known doctor.

Sarinopoulos said the study had a small sample of just nine women and will need to be replicated on a larger scale.

"We need to do more research to understand this mechanism," he said, "but this is a good first step that puts some scientific weight behind the case for empathizing with patients, getting to know them and building trust."

Published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling, the study was part of a broader effort at MSU, led by professor of medicine Robert Smith, to establish standards for patient-centered health care and measure its effectiveness.

"Medicine has for too long focused just on the physical dimensions of the patient," said Smith, who co-authored the paper. "Those clinical questions are important and necessary, but we're trying to demonstrate that when you let patients tell their story in an unfettered way, you get more satisfied patients who end up healthier."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Issidoros Sarinopoulos, Ashley M. Hesson, Chelsea Gordon, Seungcheol A. Lee, Lu Wang, Francesca Dwamena, Robert C. Smith. Patient-centered interviewing is associated with decreased responses to painful stimuli: An initial fMRI study. Patient Education and Counseling, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.pec.2012.10.021

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Listen up, doc: Empathy raises patients' pain tolerance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121203145952.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2012, December 3). Listen up, doc: Empathy raises patients' pain tolerance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121203145952.htm
Michigan State University. "Listen up, doc: Empathy raises patients' pain tolerance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121203145952.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) 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