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Congenital blindness results in lower thermal pain thresholds
Date:11/1/2013

Philadelphia, November 1, 2013 An international team of scientists investigated whether congenitally blind subjects experience pain differently than sighted individuals. Their results, published in the current issue of PAIN, reveal compelling evidence that congenitally blind individuals are hypersensitive to pain caused by thermal stimuli.

The findings are important because a key biological function of acute pain is to prevent bodily injury. Vision plays a critical role, as it allows a person to immediately detect and avoid potentially hazardous situations. Previous studies conducted in normal-sighted individuals had already demonstrated the link between vision and pain perception. The research team hypothesized that the absence of visual cues may therefore lead to heightened vigilance for painful stimuli.

Investigators recruited one group of 11 congenitally blind and 15 normal-sighted participants from Italy and a second group of 18 congenitally blind and 18 normal-sighted participants from Denmark. They conducted three experiments. The first compared pain thresholds and responses to suprathreshold pain (pain of sufficient intensity to produce a physiologic effect) stimuli among members of both groups. The second measured detection thresholds for warmth and cold perceptions. The third tested whether study results could be reproduced in an independent study population with culturally distinct ways of responding to pain.

Researchers used thermal probes on the medial forearm to measure thresholds of pain. The congenitally blind participants were allowed to touch the equipment beforehand and received verbal descriptions to reduce any anxiety. Sighted subjects were blindfolded during the actual testing. All subjects reported feelings of heat or cold pain through use of a response button. To assess suprathreshold pain, the researchers used a laser stimulation device. All participants completed a pain vigilance and awareness questio
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Contact: Terry Materese
painmedia@elsevier.com
215-239-3196
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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