Cognitive self-regulation influences pain-related physiology

Gordon M. Matthewson, Choong Wan Woo, Marianne C. Reddan, Tor D. Wager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Cognitive self-regulation can shape pain experience, but its effects on autonomic responses to painful events are unclear. In this study, participants (N = 41) deployed a cognitive strategy based on reappraisal and imagination to regulate pain up or down on different trials while skin conductance responses (SCRs) and electrocardiogram activity were recorded. Using a machine learning approach, we first developed stimulus-locked SCR and electrocardiogram physiological markers predictive of pain ratings. The physiological markers demonstrated high sensitivity and moderate specificity in predicting pain across 2 data sets, including an independent test data set (N = 84). When we tested the markers on the cognitive self-regulation data, we found that cognitive self-regulation had significant impacts on both pain ratings and pain-related physiology in accordance with regulatory goals. These findings suggest that self-regulation can impact autonomic nervous system responses to painful stimuli and provide pain-related autonomic profiles for future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2338-2349
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • ECG
  • Pain
  • SCR
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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