Review

Deconstructing the sensation of pain: The influence of cognitive processes on pain perception

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Science  04 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6312, pp. 584-587
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8934

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Abstract

Phenomena such as placebo analgesia or pain relief through distraction highlight the powerful influence cognitive processes and learning mechanisms have on the way we perceive pain. Although contemporary models of pain acknowledge that pain is not a direct readout of nociceptive input, the neuronal processes underlying cognitive modulation are not yet fully understood. Modern concepts of perception—which include computational modeling to quantify the influence of cognitive processes—suggest that perception is critically determined by expectations and their modification through learning. Research on pain has just begun to embrace this view. Insights into these processes promise to open up new avenues to pain prevention and treatment by harnessing the power of the mind.

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