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Habituation to pain: a motivational-ethological perspective

De Paepe, AL; Williams, ACDC; Crombez, G; (2019) Habituation to pain: a motivational-ethological perspective. Pain 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001533. (In press).

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Abstract

Habituation to pain is mainly studied using external pain stimuli in healthy volunteers, often to identify the underlying brain mechanisms, or to investigate problems in habituation in specific forms of pain (eg, migraine). Although these studies provide insight, they do not address one pertinent question: Why do we habituate to pain? Pain is a warning signal that urges us to react. Habituation to pain may thus be dysfunctional: It could make us unresponsive in situations where sensitivity and swift response to bodily damage are essential. Early theories of habituation were well aware of this argument. Sokolov argued that responding to pain should not decrease, but rather increase with repeated exposure, a phenomenon he called “sensitization.” His position makes intuitive sense: Why would individuals respond less to pain that inherently signals bodily harm? In this topical review, we address this question from a motivational ethological perspective. First, we describe some core characteristics of habituation. Second, we discuss theories that explain how and when habituation occurs. Third, we introduce a motivational-ethological perspective on habituation and explain why habituation occurs. Finally, we discuss how a focus on habituation to pain introduces important methodological, theoretical, and clinical implications, otherwise overlooked.

Type: Article
Title: Habituation to pain: a motivational-ethological perspective
DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001533
Publisher version: https://doi.org10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001533
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10072179
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