Date Available


Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Charles R. Carlson


Neuroscience research has followed two fairly distinct paths in investigating central neural mechanisms of pain and emotion. Rarely have studies been conducted which intentionally combined painful and emotional stimulation while observing brain function. Theories of emotion and pain processing predict an interaction between pain and emotion such that emotional states may serve to both increase or decrease pain. This increase or decrease may also correspond to different effects on different dimensions of the overall pain experience as defined in pain neuromatrix theory. Theories of emotion begin with emotions as interpretations of bodily states, to more contemporary theories focusing on the functions of emotions. These emotion theories predict neuroanotomic relations between emotion and pain in the brain. Similarly neuromatrix theory predicts an affective dimension of pain experience, which has been defined in terms of pain unpleasantness and secondary affect, emphasizing the role of emotion in pain experience. To further explore the relationship between pain and emotion, in the present study, painful heat stimulation is applied to the face while simultaneously conducting whole brain imaging using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Also personal episodes involving anger, fear, and neutral emotion are recalled during fMRI both with, and without, painful heat stimulation. Similar brain regions are involved in processing pain, anger, and fear, and these responses compare favorably with those in the literature. The results also demonstrate that simultaneous emotional episode recall modulates the patterns of brain activity involved in pain. Anger recall especially seems to increase pain-related activity. The study allows greater understanding about the way that the brain's emotional processing networks for fear and anger affect pain experience and how pain affects the emotional processing network to produce affective experience, such as fear and anger, related to pain. Further application of these procedures to patients with chronic pain can aid understanding of central pathological mechanisms involved.



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