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24-06-2017 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2018 Open Access

Psychological Research 5/2018

Attentional processing of itch

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2018
A. I. M. van Laarhoven, S. van Damme, A. P. M. Lavrijsen, D. M. van Ryckeghem, G. Crombez, A. W. M. Evers


Itch is a prevalent somatosensory symptom that can be highly disabling, because it is likely to draw attention and, as a result, may interfere with the performance of daily activities. Yet, research experimentally investigating attention to itch is lacking. In this study we aimed to investigate attentional processing of itch using multiple behavioral attention tasks. Forty-one healthy participants performed (1) a modified Stroop task with itch-related words, (2) a dot-probe task with itch-related pictures, and (3) a recently developed somatosensory attention task in which the effect of experimentally induced itch on the localization of visual targets was examined. Additionally, a number of self-report questionnaires related to somatosensory attentional processing were administered. Results indicated that participants’ attention was biased toward itch-related words and pictures assessed by means of the dot-probe and modified Stroop task, respectively. For the somatosensory attention task, results showed that itch did not significantly influence the allocation of attention. However, when taking into account the time course of attention during the itch stimulus, data suggested that participants tended to disengage attention away during the itch stimulus. This is the first study that indicates an attentional bias for itch, using methods that have previously been validated for other sensations such as pain. In addition, the newly developed somatosensory attention task may reflect the time course of attention toward a tonic itch stimulus.

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