Clinical challenges and the ageing brain

Chair(s): Marian van der Meulen (Luxembourg, Luxembourg)

Presenter(s): Ana María González Roldán (Palma, Spain), Katharina Rischer (Luxembourg, Luxembourg), Elisabeth Holl (Luxembourg, Luxembourg), Angelika Dierolf (Trier), Shervin Vencatachellum (Luxembourg, Luxembourg)

The way noxious stimuli are perceived is highly dependent on factors, such as the current attentional state or expectations about the painful event. Distraction from pain and placebo analgesia are prominent examples for this cognitive modulation of pain. Although these are generally very powerful mechanisms of pain modulation, prior studies have found considerable interindividual variations in the magnitude of the modulatory effect, while little is known about the influencing factors.

Here, we present a series of studies on cognitive and situational factors influencing pain perception and its modulation on the behavioural and (neuro)physiological level. A special focus is on the role of age-related changes, since little is known about a potentially altered “top-down” control of pain in old age, albeit this population is disproportionately affected by pain and its consequences.

Ana María González Roldán presents a study on age-related changes in pain processing and associated resting-state functional connectivity of regions implicated in pain processing. Turning to cognitive distraction from pain, Katharina Rischer discusses age-related neural changes and the role of executive functions therein. Complementary, Elisabeth Holl reports on the analgesic response and associated changes in heart rate and electrodermal activity in young adults, playing a distracting virtual reality game. The impact of age on the processing of acute pain and on its neural correlates is addressed by Angelika Dierolf. Shervin Vencatachellum discusses the role of mindfulness in shaping expectations about pain, by considering recent neuroimaging insights within the interoceptive predictive coding framework.