Integrated approach unifies psychology and neurophysiology of chronic pain

An integrated approach that unifies psychosocial factors with neurobiology sheds light on chronic pain traits and their underlying brain networks, according to a study published August 20 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by A. Vania Apkarian of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and colleagues.

Unraveling the mechanisms of chronic pain remains a major scientific challenge. Psychological and personality factors, socioeconomic status, and brain properties all contribute to chronic pain but have mainly been studied independently. As a result, the relative influence of these factors on each other, as well as their independent contribution to the state of chronic pain, remain unknown.

To address this gap in knowledge, Apkarian and colleagues analyzed psychological factors, personality, and socioeconomic status, and carried out functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans, to begin to define a unified perspective of chronic pain. The authors administered a broad battery of questionnaires to patients with chronic back pain and collected repeated sessions of resting-state fMRI scans.

The questionnaire data revealed four independent dimensions that defined chronic pain traits, and two of these traits – “Pain-trait” and “Emote-trait” – were associated with back pain characteristics. While Pain-trait reflected pain catastrophizing and anxiety, Emote-trait reflected higher optimism, mindfulness capacities, lower neuroticism, and lower sensitivity to loss. These two traits were related to neurotraits – patterns of resting-state activity in distinct, distributed brain networks – which were stable across four fMRI sessions acquired over five weeks. Moreover, socioeconomic status was associated with chronic pain traits and their related brain networks, with higher income offering more protection. According to the authors, this integrated approach is a first step in providing metrics aimed at unifying the psychology and neurophysiology of chronic pain across diverse clinical conditions.

Journal reference:

Vachon-Presseau, E. et al. (2019) Identification of traits and functional connectivity-based neurotraits of chronic pain. PLOS Biology.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    PLOS ONE. (2019, August 21). Integrated approach unifies psychology and neurophysiology of chronic pain. News-Medical. Retrieved on April 16, 2024 from

  • MLA

    PLOS ONE. "Integrated approach unifies psychology and neurophysiology of chronic pain". News-Medical. 16 April 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    PLOS ONE. "Integrated approach unifies psychology and neurophysiology of chronic pain". News-Medical. (accessed April 16, 2024).

  • Harvard

    PLOS ONE. 2019. Integrated approach unifies psychology and neurophysiology of chronic pain. News-Medical, viewed 16 April 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
High cardiometabolic disease costs in the U.S. could be linked to suboptimal diet