The experience of pain constitutes a complex phenomenon that is determined by and reflects the interplay of many factors, including cognitive functions. Little is known, however, about the precise role of executive functions in pain sensitivity. Importantly, these functions may be directly related to the ability to control pain. The present study evaluated the relationship between pain sensitivity and executive functions in a sample of healthy volunteers. Pain sensitivity was assessed with the cold pressor test. The immersion time, here defined as the time until substantial pain was reported, was measured. Additional pain intensity and pain unpleasantness ratings were obtained as an indication of pain experience. The results revealed a unique association between cognitive inhibition (i.e. the Stroop interference score), but not other executive functions, and immersion time, pain intensity, and pain unpleasantness. Specifically, better cognitive inhibition was related to a reduction in pain sensitivity as evident by an increased immersion time and decreased pain intensity and pain unpleasantness ratings. As such, cognitive inhibition may be an important determinant of pain sensitivity. © 2010 European Federation of International Association for the Study of Pain Chapters. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Oosterman, J. M., Dijkerman, H. C., Kessels, R. P., & Scherder, E. J. A. (2010). A unique association between cognitive inhibition and pain sensitivity in healthy participants. European Journal of Pain, 14(10), 1046-1050. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejpain.2010.04.004