Postural effects of imagined leg pain as a function of hypnotizability.

Department of Physiological Sciences, University of Pisa, Via San Zeno 31, 56127 Pisa, Italy.
Experimental Brain Research (Impact Factor: 2.17). 11/2011; 216(3):341-8. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-011-2935-1
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT It has been shown that, in subjects with high hypnotizability (Highs), imagined somatosensory stimulation can involuntarily activate the neural circuits involved in the modulation of reflex action. In this vein, aim of the study was to investigate whether the imagery of nociceptive stimulation in one leg may produce both subjective experience of pain and congruent postural adjustments during normal upright stance. The displacement of the centre of pressure (CoP) was studied during imagery of leg pain (LP) and during the control conditions of imagery of tactile stimulation of the same leg and of throat pain (TP) in 12 Highs and 12 low hypnotizable subjects (Lows). The results showed that the vividness of imagery was higher in Highs than in Lows for all tasks and that only Highs reported actually feeling pain during LP and TP. Congruently, during LP only Highs displaced their CoP towards the leg opposite to the one that was the object of painful imagery and increased their CoP mean velocity and area of excursion. Since the Highs' postural changes were not accounted for only by vividness of imagery and perceived pain intensity, high hypnotizability is apparently responsible for part of the postural effects of pain imagery.

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May 19, 2014