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See detailDistraction from Pain: An fMRI Study on the Role of Age-related Changes in Executive Functions
Rischer, Katharina Miriam UL; González-Roldán, Ana M.; Montoya, Pedro et al

Scientific Conference (2021, June)

Even though aging is associated with increased and prolonged episodes of pain, little is known about potential age-related changes in the "top-down" modulation of pain, such as cognitive distraction from ... [more ▼]

Even though aging is associated with increased and prolonged episodes of pain, little is known about potential age-related changes in the "top-down" modulation of pain, such as cognitive distraction from pain. The hypoalgesic effect of distraction results from a competition for attentional and executive resources mediated by the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Given that age-related grey matter atrophy is particularly prominent in the PFC, older adults may benefit less from distraction to reduce pain than young adults. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of aging on task-related hypoalgesia and its neural mechanisms, with a focus on the role of executive functions in distraction from pain. 64 participants (32 young adults: 26.69 ± 4.14 years; 32 older adults: 68.28 ± 7.00 years) first completed a battery of neuropsychological tests. In a second session, we administered a pain distraction paradigm while functional brain images were acquired. In this paradigm, participants completed a low (0-back) and a high (2-back) load condition of a working memory task while receiving either innocuous or painful heat stimuli to their lower arm. To control for age-related differences in sensitivity to pain and perceived task difficulty, stimulus intensity and task speed were individually calibrated. Both age groups showed significantly reduced activity in a network of regions involved in pain processing when performing the high compared to the low load distraction task; however, young adults showed a larger neural distraction effect in several of these regions, including the insula, caudate and midcingulate cortex. Moreover, in older adults, better executive functions – in particular inhibitory control abilities – were associated with a larger neural distraction effect in the insula, thalamus and primary somatosensory cortex, and with more activation in several prefrontal cortex regions during the high load task. These findings clearly demonstrate that the top-down control of pain is altered by age and could explain the higher vulnerability of older adults to developing chronic pain. Moreover, our findings suggest that the assessment of executive functions may be a useful tool for predicting the efficacy of cognitive pain modulation strategies in older adults. [less ▲]

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See detailPain Processing in Older Age – Evidence from Event-Related Potentials
Dierolf, Angelika UL; Rischer, Katharina Miriam UL; González-Rolán, Ana Maria et al

Scientific Conference (2021, June)

Aging is known to affect neurobiological and physiological aspects of pain perception and has been associated with reduced pain sensitivity and a deterioration of descending pain inhibitory mechanisms. To ... [more ▼]

Aging is known to affect neurobiological and physiological aspects of pain perception and has been associated with reduced pain sensitivity and a deterioration of descending pain inhibitory mechanisms. To investigate age differences in neural electrophysiological correlates of pain processing, we induced acute pain in healthy older (60 yrs+) and younger adults (18 to 35 yrs), using short transdermal electrical pulses administered to the inner forearm, with individually adjusted stimulation intensities. Participants received alternating blocks of painful and non-painful control stimulation and rated the intensity and unpleasantness of each stimulus on two visual analog scales. Pain-related evoked potentials were recorded with a 64-channel EEG. Preliminary results indicate that younger and older participants rated painful stimuli more intensive and unpleasant compared to the control stimulation, with older adults showing a slight habituation over time. In younger adults, ERP amplitudes (N2, P2 P3) of painful stimulation were enhanced compared to non- painful stimulation. In contrast, older participants showed generally reduced ERPs, no difference between pain and non-painful stimulation and by tendency longer latencies for painful stimulation. This suggests that nociceptive neural processing is altered in aging, while the reported pain perception is unaffected. Given that aging is also associated with a decline of cognitive functions and PFC volume and activity changes, this could have implications for the efficacy of cognitive pain modulation. Altogether, our results highlight the need for a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying pain processing in older adults, and how these age-related changes affect (cognitive) pain treatments in this population. [less ▲]

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See detailCognitive distraction from pain: An fMRI study on the role of age and executive functions
Rischer, Katharina Miriam UL; Dierolf, Angelika UL; González-Roldán, Ana M. et al

Scientific Conference (2021, June)

Completing a cognitive task has been shown to be a powerful strategy to reduce concurrent pain. This reduction in pain is assumed to result from a competition between the painful stimulus and the ... [more ▼]

Completing a cognitive task has been shown to be a powerful strategy to reduce concurrent pain. This reduction in pain is assumed to result from a competition between the painful stimulus and the distractive task for attentional and executive resources mediated by the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a region that is particularly affected by age-related grey matter atrophy. In the present study, we investigated the role of age-related changes in gray matter volume and executive functions in modulating the efficacy of distraction from pain. In a first session, young and older adults completed a battery of neuropsychological tests. In a second session, we acquired functional brain images while participants completed a working memory task with two levels of cognitive load (low vs. high load) and concurrently received individually adjusted heat stimuli (innocuous vs. painful) to their lower arm. While we found no age-related differences in the distraction effect size on the behavioural level, young adults showed a larger neural distraction effect in several regions involved in pain processing, including the insula, caudate and midcingulate cortex. Interestingly, older adults with better executive functions, particularly, better inhibitory control abilities, showed a larger neural distraction effect in the insula, thalamus and primary somatosensory cortex, and more activation in frontal clusters during the high load task. Taken together, these findings suggest that age alters the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive distraction from pain, and that the magnitude of these changes may be dependent on the preservation of executive functions. [less ▲]

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See detailIntact pain modulation through manipulation of controllability and expectations in aging
González-Roldán, Ana María; Terrasa, Juan Lorenzo; Prats-Sedano, Maria Angeles et al

in European Journal of Pain (2021)

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See detailAnterior cingulate cortex activity during rest is related to alterations in pain perception in aging
Terrasa, Juan L.; Montoya, Pedro; Sitges, Carolina et al

in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (2021)

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See detailAlterations in Neural Responses and Pain Perception in Older Adults During Distraction
Gonzalez-Roldan, Ana Maria; Terrasa, Juan Lorenzo; Sitges, Carolina et al

in Psychosomatic Medicine (2020), 82

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See detailDistraction from pain: The role of selective attention and pain catastrophizing
Rischer, Katharina Miriam UL; Gonzalez-Roldan, Ana Maria; Montoya, Pedro et al

in European Journal of Pain (2020), 24(10), 1880-1891

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See detailAge-Related Changes in Pain Perception Are Associated With Altered Functional Connectivity During Resting State
Gonzalez-Roldan, Ana Maria; Terrasa, Juan Lorenzo; Sitges, Carolina et al

in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (2020), 12(116),

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See detailThe destruction of distraction? Neural mechanisms of reduced task-related analgesia with aging.
Rischer, Katharina Miriam UL; Dierolf, Angelika UL; Gonzalez-Roldan, Ana Maria et al

Poster (2019, September 06)

Detailed reference viewed: 118 (10 UL)