Research Article

Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 186, Issue 1, pp 79-85

First online:

Effects of catastrophizing on pain perception and pain modulation

  • Irit Weissman-FogelAffiliated withFaculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa
  • , Elliot SprecherAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Rambam Medical Center
  • , Dorit PudAffiliated withFaculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa Email author 

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The multidimensional experience of pain is thought to be partially influenced by the pain modulation system as well as by individual psychological components. Recent studies demonstrated possible common neural network mediating both domains. The present study examined the relationships between pain perception, pain modulation, and catastrophizing in healthy subjects. Forty-eight participants (29 females and 19 males) completed the pain catastrophizing scale (PCS) and underwent psychophysical tests in order to evaluate the modulation of pain, using the diffuse noxious inhibitory control (DNIC) paradigm. Contact heat pain (47.0°C applied for 1 min), which was used as the “test” stimulation, was applied before and after a physical effort that induces pain (repeated squeezing of a hand grip device), which was used as a “conditioning” stimulus. Numeric pain scale intensities (NPS, 0–10) were evaluated four times during each of two separate consecutive runs of heat stimulation. Results showed a significant positive correlation of PCS with heat pain (r = 0.48, p < 0.0005) and with muscle pain (r = 0.31, p = 0.03). In addition, significant negative correlations were found between PCS and DNIC effect (r = −0.34, p = 0.02). Moreover, once catastrophizing was entered into the regression analysis, the previously significant effect of gender was no longer found. In conclusion, individuals with high catastrophizing levels demonstrated higher pain intensities and lower effects of DNIC indicating that catastrophizing might have a significant impact on pain perception via an association with pain modulation.


Catastrophizing Diffuse noxious inhibitory control (DNIC) Heat pain Muscle pain