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The effects of menstrual-related pain on attentional interference.

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The effects of menstrual-related pain on attentional interference.

Pain. 2014 Apr;155(4):821-7

Authors: Keogh E, Cavill R, Moore DJ, Eccleston C

Pain-related attentional interference has been found in both chronic pain and laboratory-inducted pain settings. However, few studies have examined such interference effects during common everyday painful episodes. Menstrual cycle-related pain is a common pain that affects a large number of women on a regular basis. The purpose of the current study was, therefore, to examine the effects of menstrual pain on attentional interference. Fifty-two healthy adult women were tested during 2 different phases of their menstrual cycles: once during a nonpain phase (mid follicular), and once while experiencing menstrual pain (late luteal/early follicular). On each testing session, participants received a battery of 4 attentional interference tasks that included selective attention (flanker task), attention span (n-back task), attentional switching (switching task), and divided attention (dual task). Greater attentional interference effects were found to occur during the menstrual pain phase compared to the nonpain phase. Interestingly, the nature of this effect was a general worsening in performance (e.g., slowing, less accurate), rather than a specific attentional deficit. These results add to a growing literature that generally indicates that attentional interference occurs across a range of different types of pain, including common painful episodes. However, they also highlight that the specific nature of this interference effect may depend on the type pain under consideration. Implications of these findings are also considered.

PMID: 24486337 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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