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Conditioned pain modulation in children and adolescents: effects of sex and age

journal contribution
posted on 2013-06-01, 00:00 authored by J C I Tsao, L C Seidman, Subhadra EvansSubhadra Evans, K C Lung, L K Zeltzer, B D Naliboff
UNLABELLED: Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) refers to the diminution of perceived pain intensity for a test stimulus following application of a conditioning stimulus to a remote area of the body, and is thought to reflect the descending inhibition of nociceptive signals. Studying CPM in children may inform interventions to enhance central pain inhibition within a developmental framework. We assessed CPM in 133 healthy children (mean age = 13 years; 52.6% girls) and tested the effects of sex and age. Participants were exposed to 4 trials of a pressure test stimulus before, during, and after the application of a cold water conditioning stimulus. CPM was documented by a reduction in pressure pain ratings during cold water administration. Older children (12-17 years) exhibited greater CPM than younger children (8-11 years). No sex differences in CPM were found. Lower heart rate variability at baseline and after pain induction was associated with less CPM, controlling for child age. The findings of greater CPM in the older age cohort suggest a developmental improvement in central pain inhibitory mechanisms. The results highlight the need to examine developmental and contributory factors in central pain inhibitory mechanisms in children to guide effective, age appropriate pain interventions. PERSPECTIVE: In this healthy sample, younger children exhibited less CPM than did older adolescents, suggesting a developmental improvement in CPM. Cardiac vagal tone was associated with CPM across age. The current findings may inform the development of targeted, developmentally appropriate pain interventions for children.



Journal of pain






558 - 567




Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2013, American Pain Society