Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Do words hurt?

Psychologists of Jena University, Germany, show that verbal stimuli activate pain matrix

"Watch out, it'll hurt for a second." Not only children but also many adults get uneasy when they hear those words from their doctor. And, as soon as the needle touches their skin the piercing pain can be felt very clearly. "After such an experience it is enough to simply imagine a needle at the next vaccination appointment to activate our pain memory", knows Prof. Dr. Thomas Weiss from the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

As the scientist and his team from the Dept. of Biological and Clinical Psychology could show in a study for the first time it is not only the painful memories and associations that set our pain memory on the alert. "Even verbal stimuli lead to reactions in certain areas of the brain", claims Prof. Weiss. As soon as we hear words like "tormenting", "gruelling" or "plaguing", exactly those areas in the brain are being activated which process the corresponding pain. The psychologists from Jena University were able to examine this phenomenon using functional magnetic resonance tomography (fMRT). In their study they investigated how healthy subjects process words associated with experiencing pain. In order to prevent reactions based on a plain negative affect the subjects were also confronted with negatively connotated words like "terrifying", "horrible" or "disgusting" besides the proper pain words.

"Subject performed two tasks", explains Maria Richter, doctoral candidate in Weiss's team. "In a first task, subjects were supposed to imagine situations which correspond to the words", the Jena psychologist says. In a second task, subjects were also reading the words but they were distracted by a brain-teaser. "In both cases we could observe a clear activation of the pain matrix in the brain by pain-associated words", Maria Richter states. Other negatively connotated words, however, do not activate those regions. Neither for neutrally nor for positively connotated words comparable activity patterns could be examined.

Can words intensify chronic pain?

"These findings show that words alone are capable of activating our pain matrix", underlines Prof. Weiss. To save painful experiences is of biological advantage since it allows us to avoid painful situations in the future which might be dangerous for our lives. "However, our results suggest as well that verbal stimuli have a more important meaning than we have thought so far." For the Jena psychologist the question remains open which role the verbal confrontation with pain plays for chronic pain patients. "They tend to speak a lot about their experiencing of pain to their physician or physiotherapist", Maria Richter says. It is possible that those conversations intensify the activity of the pain matrix in the brain and therefore intensify the pain experience. This is what the Jena psychologists want to clarify in another study.

And so far it won't do any harm not to talk too much about pain. Maybe then the next injection will be only half as painful.

Original article:

Richter M, Eck J, Straube T, Miltner WHR, Weiss T. Do words hurt? Brain activation during explicit and implicit processing of pain words. Pain. 2010;148(2):198-205.

Professor Dr. Thomas Weiss | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Deep down fracking wells, microbial communities thrive

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>