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Gate Control Theory of Pain

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Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Synonyms

Pain; Pain perception; Pain sensitivity

Definition

The gate control theory (GCT) of pain was introduced in 1965 by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall. It was the first theory to introduce the concept that pain experience is not simply the result of a linear process that begins with the stimulation of pain pathways in the peripheral nervous system and ends with the experience of pain in the central nervous system. Rather, neural impulses that potentially signal pain from the peripheral nervous system are subject to a number of modulations in the spinal cord by a “gatelike” mechanism in the dorsal horn before the experience of pain is transmitted to the central nervous system (Melzack and Wall 1965). It also proposes that the gate mechanism is modulated by emotions, cognitive state, and past experiences. While this theory is based on physiology, it explains both sensory and psychological aspects of pain perception.

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The gate control theory of pain was first introduced by...

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References and Readings

  • Melzack, R. (1973). The puzzle of pain. Harmondsworth: Penguin Education.

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  • Melzack, R. (1993). Pain: Past, present and future. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 47(4), 615–629.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Melzack, R., & Wall, P. D. (1962). On the nature of cutaneous sensory mechanisms. Brain, 85, 331–356.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Melzack, R., & Wall, P. D. (1965). Pain mechanisms: A new theory. Science, 150, 971–979.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Melzack, R., & Wall, P. D. (1988). The challenge of pain. New York: Basic Books.

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Correspondence to Tavis S. Campbell .

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Campbell, T.S., Johnson, J.A., Zernicke, K.A. (2020). Gate Control Theory of Pain. In: Gellman, M.D. (eds) Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-39903-0_1134

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-39903-0_1134

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-39901-6

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-39903-0

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