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New publication in Language and Cognition

Nikola Vukovic, Francesca Fardo and Yury Shtyrov: "When words burn – language processing differentially modulates pain perception in typical and chronic pain populations"

Nikola Vukovic

How do we communicate our pain to others? The challenge of conveying such a highly individual experience in words is faced daily by many sufferers of chronic pain and their doctors.

In a collaborative project with the Danish Pain Research Center, a group of CFIN scientists have tested the hypothesis that both pain word comprehension and first-hand experiences of pain rely on a common neural substrate, leading to a prediction that word processing should modulate the perception of noxious stimuli.

By presenting pain-related and unrelated metaphors to healthy subjects and chronic pain sufferers and combining this with mild pain stimulation procedure, they found that pain language comprehension modulated participants’ ratings of pain intensity. Furthermore, this effect depended on linguistic context as well as individual pain history.

These findings, their potential relevance for clinical practice and their implications within the larger theoretical debate on the nature of semantic representations are described in the paper by Nikola Vukovic, Francesca Fardo and Yury Shtyrov recently published in Language and Cognition.