Memory for non-painful auditory items is influenced by whether they are experienced in a context involving painful electrical stimulation
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In this study, we sought to examine the effect of experimentally induced somatic pain on memory. Subjects heard a series of words and made categorization decisions in two different conditions. One condition included painful shocks administered just after presentation of some of the words; the other condition involved no shocks. For the condition that included painful stimulations, every other word was followed by a shock, and subjects were informed to expect this pattern. Word lists were repeated three times within each condition in randomized order, with different category judgments but consistent pain-word pairings. After a brief delay, recognition memory was assessed. Non-pain words from the pain condition were less strongly encoded than non-pain words from the completely pain-free condition. Recognition of pain-paired words was not significantly different than either subgroup of non-pain words. An important accompanying finding is that response times to repeated experimental items were slower for non-pain words from the pain condition, compared to non-pain words from the completely pain-free condition. This demonstrates that the effect of pain on memory may generalize to non-pain items experienced in the same experimental context.
KeywordsPain Memory Remember-know Electric nerve stimulation Recollection Familiarity
This work was supported by a seed grant from the Department of Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine. Further support was provided by a Mentored Research Training Grant (to KMV) from the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER). Salary support for KMV during the initial phase of this project came from an institutional training grant from the National Institutes of Health (T32GM075770). Subject recruitment was assisted by the University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute Research Participant Registry, a project supported by the National Institutes of Health through grant number UL1TR000005. The authors have no relevant financial or other conflicts of interest to disclose related to this work. This work has been improved substantially from its initial form by suggestions from anonymous reviewers, to which the authors are grateful.
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