Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Suffering


Standard theories of decision-making involving delayed outcomes predict that people should defer a punishment, whilst advancing a reward. In some cases, such as pain, people seem to prefer to expedite punishment, implying that its anticipation carries a cost, often conceptualized as ‘dread’. Despite empirical support for the existence of dread, whether and how it depends on prospective delay is unknown. Furthermore, it is unclear whether dread represents a stable component of value, or is modulated by biases such as framing effects. Here, we examine choices made between different numbers of painful shocks to be delivered faithfully at different time points up to 15 minutes in the future, as well as choices between hypothetical painful dental appointments at time points of up to approximately eight months in the future, to test alternative models for how future pain is disvalued. We show that future pain initially becomes increasingly aversive with increasing delay, but does so at a decreasing rate. This is consistent with a value model in which moment-by-moment dread increases up to the time of expected pain, such that dread becomes equivalent to the discounted expectation of pain. For a minority of individuals pain has maximum negative value at intermediate delay, suggesting that the dread function may itself be prospectively discounted in time. Framing an outcome as relief reduces the overall preference to expedite pain, which can be parameterized by reducing the rate of the dread-discounting function. Our data support an account of disvaluation for primary punishments such as pain, which differs fundamentally from existing models applied to financial punishments, in which dread exerts a powerful but time-dependent influence over choice.

Concepts: Sociology, Preference, Prediction, Choice, Future, Time, Suffering, Scientific method


To identify where a consensus can be reached between veterinary experts in feline medicine on the core signs sufficient for pain (sufficient to indicate pain when they occur, but not necessarily present in all painful conditions) and necessary for pain (necessary in the presence of pain, but not always indicative of pain).

Concepts: Neuroscience, Neurology, Necessity, Acupuncture, Dentistry, Suffering


The ActiPatch(®) (BioElectronics Corporation, MD, USA) pulsed shortwave therapy device has been shown to be clinically effective in three double-blind randomized controlled pain studies. However, the effectiveness of this device in a broader population of chronic musculoskeletal pain sufferers, affected by a variety of etiologies in different regions of the body, has not been studied.

Concepts: Effectiveness, Pain management, Effect, Chronic pain, Suffering, Cultural studies, Medicine, Pain


BACKGROUND: Over 50% of older adults experience chronic pain. Poorly managed pain threatens independent functioning, limits social activities and detrimentally affects emotional wellbeing. Yet, chronic pain is not fully understood from older adults' perspectives; subsequently, pain management in later life is not necessarily based on their priorities or needs. This paper reports a qualitative exploration of older adults' accounts of living with chronic pain, focusing on how they describe pain, with a view to informing approaches to its assessment. METHODS: Cognitively intact men and women aged over sixty-five who lived in the community opted into the study through responding to advertisements in the media and via contacts with groups and organisations in North-East Scotland. Interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed using a framework approach. RESULTS: Qualitative individual interviews and one group interview were undertaken with 23 older adults. Following analysis, the following main themes emerged: diversity in conceptualising pain using a simple numerical score; personalising the meaning of pain by way of stories, similes and metaphors; and, contextualising pain in relation to its impact on activities. CONCLUSIONS: The importance of attending to individuals' stories as a meaningful way of describing pain for older adults is highlighted, suggesting that a narrative approach, as recommended and researched in other areas of medicine, may usefully be applied in pain assessment for older adults. Along with the judicious use of numerical tools, this requires innovative methods to elicit verbal accounts, such as using similes and metaphors to help older adults describe and discuss their experience, and contextualising the effects of pain on activities that are important to them.

Concepts: Research methods, Following, Educational psychology, Quantitative research, Meaning of life, Suffering, Simile, Pain


Chronic pancreatitis (CP) is a common gastrointestinal illness, which affects the quality of life with substantial morbidity and mortality. The management includes medical, endoscopic and surgical approaches with the need for interaction between various specialties, calling for a concerted multidisciplinary approach. However, at the time of this publication, guidelines to establish care of these patients are lacking. This review provides the reader with a comprehensive overview of the studies summarizing the various treatment options available, including medical, surgical and endoscopic options. In addition, technological advances such as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogrophy, endoscopic shock wave lithotripsy and endoscopic ultrasound can now be offered with reasonable success for pancreatic decompression, stricture dilatation with stent placement, stone fragmentation, pseudocyst drainage, and other endoscopic interventions such as celiac plexus block for pain relief. We emphasize the endoscopic options in this review, and attempt to extract the most up to date information from the current literature. The treatment of CP and its complications are discussed extensively. Complications such as biliary strictures. pancreatic pseudocysts, and chronic pain are common issues that arise as long-term complications of CP. These often require endoscopic or surgical management and possibly a combination of approaches, however choosing amongst the various therapeutic and palliative modalities while weighing the risks and benefits, makes the management of CP challenging. Treatment goals should be not just to control symptoms but also to prevent disease progression. Our aim in this paper is to advocate and emphasize an evidence based approach for the management of CP and associated long term complications.

Concepts: Robert C. Merton, Suffering, Pancreatic cancer, Pain, Term, Celiac plexus, Pancreatic pseudocyst, Medicine


Until recently, research in animal welfare science has mainly focused on negative experiences like pain and suffering, often neglecting the importance of assessing and promoting positive experiences. In rodents, specific facial expressions have been found to occur in situations thought to induce negatively valenced emotional states (e.g., pain, aggression and fear), but none have yet been identified for positive states. Thus, this study aimed to investigate if facial expressions indicative of positive emotional state are exhibited in rats. Adolescent male Lister Hooded rats (Rattus norvegicus, N = 15) were individually subjected to a Positive and a mildly aversive Contrast Treatment over two consecutive days in order to induce contrasting emotional states and to detect differences in facial expression. The Positive Treatment consisted of playful manual tickling administered by the experimenter, while the Contrast Treatment consisted of exposure to a novel test room with intermittent bursts of white noise. The number of positive ultrasonic vocalisations was greater in the Positive Treatment compared to the Contrast Treatment, indicating the experience of differentially valenced states in the two treatments. The main findings were that Ear Colour became significantly pinker and Ear Angle was wider (ears more relaxed) in the Positive Treatment compared to the Contrast Treatment. All other quantitative and qualitative measures of facial expression, which included Eyeball height to width Ratio, Eyebrow height to width Ratio, Eyebrow Angle, visibility of the Nictitating Membrane, and the established Rat Grimace Scale, did not show differences between treatments. This study contributes to the exploration of positive emotional states, and thus good welfare, in rats as it identified the first facial indicators of positive emotions following a positive heterospecific play treatment. Furthermore, it provides improvements to the photography technique and image analysis for the detection of fine differences in facial expression, and also adds to the refinement of the tickling procedure.

Concepts: Rodent, Anger, Psychology, Suffering, Brown rat, Paul Ekman, Rat, Emotion


Animal and human studies indicate that electrical stimulation of DRG neurons may modulate neuropathic pain signals.ACCURATE, a pivotal, prospective, multi-center, randomized-comparative effectiveness trial, was conducted in 152 subjects diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or causalgia in the lower extremities. Subjects received neurostimulation of the DRG or dorsal column (SCS). The primary endpoint was a composite of safety and efficacy at 3 months and subjects were assessed through 12 months for long term outcomes and adverse events. The pre-defined primary composite endpoint of treatment success was met for subjects with a permanent implant who reported 50% or greater decrease in VAS from pre-implant baseline and who did not report any stimulation-related neurological deficits.No subjects reported stimulation-related neurological deficits. The percentage of subjects receiving ≥ 50% pain relief and treatment success was greater in the DRG arm (81.2%) versus the SCS arm (55.7%, p<0.001) at 3 months. Device-related and serious adverse events were not different between the 2 groups. DRG stimulation also demonstrated greater improvements in quality of life and psychological disposition. Finally, subjects using DRG stimulation reported less postural variation in paresthesia (p<0.001) and reduced extraneous stimulation in non-painful areas (p=0.014), indicating DRG stimulation provided more targeted therapy to painful parts of the lower extremities.As the largest prospective, randomized comparative effectiveness trial to date, the results show DRG stimulation provided a higher rate of treatment success with less postural variation in paresthesia intensity compared to SCS.

Concepts: Dorsal root ganglion, Nociception, Peripheral neuropathy, Suffering, Neurology, Nervous system, Complex regional pain syndrome, Pain


Why do people self-report an aversion to words like “moist”? The present studies represent an initial scientific exploration into the phenomenon of word aversion by investigating its prevalence and cause. Results of five experiments indicate that about 10-20% of the population is averse to the word “moist.” This population often speculates that phonological properties of the word are the cause of their displeasure. However, data from the current studies point to semantic features of the word-namely, associations with disgusting bodily functions-as a more prominent source of peoples' unpleasant experience. “Moist,” for averse participants, was notable for its valence and personal use, rather than imagery or arousal-a finding that was confirmed by an experiment designed to induce an aversion to the word. Analyses of individual difference measures suggest that word aversion is more prevalent among younger, more educated, and more neurotic people, and is more commonly reported by females than males.

Concepts: Valence, Causality, Suffering, Greek loanwords, Semantics, Experiment, Language, Science


To evaluate the effectiveness of current medical and psychological interventions for individuals at risk of sexually abusing children, both in known abusers and those at risk of abusing.

Concepts: Sexuality, Suffering, Psychological trauma, Child abuse


Simulation theories of empathy hypothesize that empathizing with others' pain shares some common psychological computations with the processing of one’s own pain. Support for this perspective has largely relied on functional neuroimaging evidence of an overlap between activations during the experience of physical pain and empathy for other people’s pain. Here, we extend the functional overlap perspective to the neurochemical level and test whether a common physical painkiller, acetaminophen (paracetamol), can reduce empathy for another’s pain. In two double-blind placebo-controlled experiments, participants rated perceived pain, personal distress and empathic concern in response to reading scenarios about another’s physical or social pain, witnessing ostracism in the lab, or visualizing another study participant receiving painful noise blasts. As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others' pain. Acetaminophen also reduced the unpleasantness of noise blasts delivered to the participant, which mediated acetaminophen’s effects on empathy. Together, these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy. Because empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen, which is taken by almost a quarter of adults in the United States each week.

Concepts: Empathic concern, Opioid, Suffering, Sympathy, Social psychology, Pain, Psychology, Emotion