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Brain-behaviour correlates of habitual motivation in chronic back pain

F. Nees, M. Ruttorf, X. Fuchs, M. Rance and N. Beyer

Sci Rep-UK, 10, p.11090

Chronic pain may sap the motivation for positive events and stimuli. This may lead to a negative behavioural cycle reducing the establishment of appetitive habitual engagement. One potential mechanism for this might be biased learning. In our experiment, chronic back pain patients and healthy controls completed an appetitive Pavlovian-instrumental transfer procedure. We examined participants' behaviour and brain activity and reported pain, depression and anxiety. Patients showed reduced habitual behaviour and increased responses in the hippocampus than controls. This behavioural bias was related to motivational value and reflected in the updating of brain activity in prefrontal-striatal-limbic circuits. Moreover, this was influenced by pain symptom duration, depression and anxiety (explained variance: up to 50.7%). Together, findings identify brain-behaviour pathways for maladaptive habitual learning and motivation in chronic back pain, which helps explaining why chronic pain can be resistant to change, and where clinical characteristics are significant modulators.

Contact: Dr. Frank Zöllner last modified: 12.05.2021
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