Relations between short-term memory and the within-subject variability of experimental pain intensity reports: results from healthy and Fibromyalgia patients

Rita Canaipa, Amira Khallouf, Ana Rita Magalhães, Rafael Teodoro, Vanessa Pão-Mole, Mariana Agostinho, Fernando Pimentel-Santos, Liat Honigman, Roi Treister*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

While factors contributing to between-subjects differences in pain have been studied extensively, factors contributing to the within-subjects variability of pain reports are yet unexplored. The aim of this investigation was to assess possible associations between short-term memory and the within-subjects variability of pain reports in healthy and chronic pain patients. Healthy participants were recruited at the University of Haifa, Israel, and Fibromyalgia patients were recruited at a rheumatology department in a central hospital in Lisbon, Portugal. Following consent, both cohorts underwent the same procedures, including the digit-span test, assessing short-term memory, and the FAST procedure, assessing within-subject variability of pain intensity reports in response to experimental pain. One-hundred twenty-one healthy volunteers and 29 Fibromyalgia patients completed the study. While a significant correlation was found between the within-subjects variability and the total score of the short-term memory task (Spearman’s r = 0.394, P = 0.046) in the Fibromyalgia group, a marginal correlation emerged in the healthy cohort (r = 0.174, P = 0.056). A possible interpretation of these results is that in the patients’ group, at least some of the within-subjects variability of pain intensity reports might be due to error measurement derived by poorer short-term memory, rather than true fluctuations in perception.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0277402
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume17
Issue number11 November
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2022

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