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Pain generated by observation of others in pain

Osborn, Jody (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

Recently, observation of pain has been linked to areas of the brain coding the sensory/discriminative aspects of pain (Avenanti et al., 2005; Avenanti et al., 2006). The experiential qualities associated with observing another in pain are poorly understood. In this thesis, we demonstrate that pain generated by observation of others in pain is reported by a significant minority of healthy individuals. The pain reported is mild, transient and occurs in the same location as the observed pain. Ten pain responders were matched with ten non-responders to take part in an fMRI study observing others in pain. Responders activated emotional and sensory brain regions associated with pain while the non-responders activated very little. Reports of pain were more likely to be accompanied by a pain memory. Pain responders are quicker to represent the perspective of others and have a more flexible sense of body ownership but are not more likely to report somatic symptoms during incongruent sensori-motor feedback. These findings provide convincing evidence that some people can readily experience pain during observation of others‘ pain. It is plausible that the mechanism underpinning pain reports evoked by observation of pain is not specific to pain processing per se.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Derbyshire, Stuart
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
Department:School of Psychology
Subjects:RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
BF Psychology
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1753
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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