Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Psychophysiological responsivity on a laboratory stress task: Methodological implications for a stress-muscle hyperactivity pain model

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A stress-muscle hyperactivity-pain (SMP) model has been proposed to explain the etiology of certain musculoskeletal pain disorders. According to this model, subjects should show physiological arousal during periods of stress relative to periods of rest. In a test of this prediction, 31 subjects performed a reaction time task that has been used in previous laboratory studies. Multiple psychophysiological variables were monitored during initial and final 10-minute baselines, during performance on nine 2-minute reaction time tasks, and during 36-second rest intervals following each of the 2-minute tasks. Results showed small but statistically significant differences generally supporting the SMP model when masseter EMG was averaged over time periods of 12 seconds to 2 minutes, but not when masseter EMG was averaged over 10- to 18-minute blocks. These results demonstrated the importance of carefully selecting time intervals for analysis. Additional analyses that compared TMD with symptom-free subjects revealed small differences in EMG that supported the SMP model. Analyses of EMG over shorter time intervals also showed, however, that masseter EMG increased during the 36-second rest interval following performance on a 2-minute stress task; this result suggested that a modification of the SMP model may be necessary.


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Biofeedback and Self-Regulation