Role of Attentional Focus on Bodily Sensations in Sensitivity to Itch and Pain
Antoinette I. M. van Laarhoven, Floris W. Kraaimaat, Oliver H. Wilder-Smith and Andrea W. M. Evers
Patients frequently report high levels of physical symptoms, such as itch and pain, which do not completely correspond to pathophysiological findings, possibly indication heightened sensitivity to physical symptoms. Sensitivity to itch and pain is thought to be affected by processes such as attentional focus on bodily sensations. We investigated the role of attentional focus in sensitivity to various somatosensory stimuli evoking both itch and pain sensations in healthy female subjects. Different mechanical, chemical and electrical stimuli of quantitative sensory testing were applied. Attentional focus on bodily sensations was measured using validated questionnaires. The results indicated that focusing on bodily sensations is associated with higher levels of experienced itch and pain but not with tolerance to stimuli. This suggests that attentional focusing on bodily sensations is a mechanism responsible for sensitivity to different physical sensations, such as itch and pain.