Attentional Bias Towards Visual Itch and Pain Stimuli in Itch- and Pain-free Individuals?
Jennifer M. Becker, Sarah R. Vreijling, Sjoerd Dobbinga, Jolijn J.J. Giesbers, Andrea W.M. Evers, Dieuwke S. Veldhuijzen, Antoinette I.M. van Laarhoven
Itch and pain are important attention-demanding sensations that allow adaptive responses to potential bodily harm. An attentional bias towards itch and pain stimuli, i.e. preferential attention allocation towards itch- and pain-related information, has been found in healthy, as well as patient groups. However, it remains unclear whether attentional bias for itch and pain differs from a general bias towards negative information. Therefore, this study investigated attentional bias towards itch and pain in 70 itch- and pain-free individuals. In an attention task, itch- and pain-related stimuli, as well as negative stimuli, were presented alongside neutral stimuli. The results did not indicate an attentional bias towards itch-, pain-, and negative visual information. This finding suggests that people without itch and pain symptoms do not prioritize itch- and pain-related information above neutral information. Future research should investigate whether attention towards itch- and pain-related information might be biased in patients with chronic itch and pain.
Prevention of potential harm to the body is adaptive. Thus, people may preferentially allocate attention towards itch- or pain-cues, i.e. attentional bias. So far, research about this topic in itch is scarce and the evidence is mixed for pain. Therefore, more insight into the mechanism of attentional bias towards itch and pain is needed to demonstrate possible alterations in patients in a next step. The aim of this study was to investigate whether healthy individuals have an attentional bias towards itch and pain, which could not be demonstrated. Such attentional bias is perhaps particularly present in patients with chronic itch or pain.