Pain intensity and pain affect in relation to white matter changes

Joukje M. Oosterman*, Barbera van Harten, Henry C. Weinstein, Philip Scheltens, Erik J.A. Scherder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Since aging is a risk factor for both dementia and the occurrence of painful conditions, with the number of aged people increasing in the next decades, an increase in the number of elderly people suffering from both conditions can be anticipated. Reliable pain assessment in this population is restricted by reduced communicative and cognitive capacity, with serious consequences for effective pain treatment. White matter changes are frequently observed in the various subtypes of dementia as well as in normal aging, and may play a crucial role in pain processing. In healthy elderly people, reliable pain assessment can be accomplished, which enables examining the relationship between pain experience and white matter changes. A normal structure and function of the white matter is extremely important for dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) functioning, which has recently been linked to pain inhibition. The present study focused on the relation between white matter changes and both pain intensity and pain affect in elderly people without dementia. The Coloured Analogue Scale (CAS) and the Number of Words Chosen-Affective (NWC-A) were applied to measure pain intensity and pain affect, respectively. The presence of white matter changes was significantly related to a higher score on the NWC-A but not the CAS score. These results suggest that pain experience may change as a result of aging and that white matter changes might be indicative for these alterations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-81
Number of pages8
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2006

Cite this