The disruptive effects of pain on n-back task performance in a large general population sample


Attridge, N., Noonan, D., Eccleston, C. and Keogh, E., 2015. The disruptive effects of pain on n-back task performance in a large general population sample. Pain, 156 (10), pp. 1885-1891.

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    Official URL: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000245


    Abstract: Pain captures attention, displaces current concerns, and prioritises escape and repair. This attentional capture can be measured by its effects on general cognition. Studies on induced pain, naturally occurring acute pain, and chronic pain all demonstrate a detrimental effect on specific tasks of attention, especially those that involve working memory. However, studies to date have relied on relatively small samples and/or one type of pain, thus restricting our ability to generalise to wider populations. We investigated the effect of pain on an n-back task in a large heterogeneous sample of 1318 adults. Participants were recruited from the general population and tested through the internet. Despite the heterogeneity of pain conditions, participant characteristics, and testing environments, we found a performance decrement on the n-back task for those with pain, compared with those without pain; there were significantly more false alarms on nontarget trials. Furthermore, we also found an effect of pain intensity; performance was poorer in participants with higher intensity compared with that in those with lower intensity pain. We suggest that the effects of pain on attention found in the laboratory occur in more naturalistic settings. Pain is common in the general population, and such interruption may have important, as yet uninvestigated, consequences for tasks of everyday cognition that involve working memory, such as concentration, reasoning, motor planning, and prospective memory.


    Item Type Articles
    CreatorsAttridge, N., Noonan, D., Eccleston, C. and Keogh, E.
    DepartmentsFaculty of Humanities & Social Sciences > Health
    Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences > Psychology
    Research CentresCentre for Pain Research
    Publisher StatementAttridge_et_al_online_n_back_in_pain_accepted_version.pdf: Thisis a non-final version of an article published in final form in Attridge, N, Noonan, D, Eccleston, C & Keogh, E 2015, 'The disruptive effects of pain on n-back task performance in a large general population sample' Pain, vol 156, no. 10, pp. 1885-1891., and available online via
    ID Code45271


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