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    Pain is a subjective experience characterized by sensory (intensity) and emotional (unpleasantness) aspects. Although literature reports behavioural effects on pain due to smell and taste influence, to our knowledge the relationship between tonic pain induced by a capsaicin cream and these chemosensory systems has never been explored before. The aim of this study was to investigate the modulation of olfactory and gustatory substances having different valence on tonic pain perception mediated by a capsaicin cream application. Sixty healthy volunteers were included in two separated experiments (N = 30 smell; N = 30 taste) and underwent different valence smell and taste stimulations, while receiving painful stimuli. Perception of pain intensity (the sensory component) and unpleasantness (the affective component) was measured with a numerical rating scale, both during the two aforementioned experiments. Pain unpleasantness rating showed differences only in the smell experiment between the two odourous conditions. In particular, pleasant odour induced lower ratings of pain unpleasantness, while no significant results were found for intensity. Regarding taste, we could not observe significant effects nor for pain unpleasantness or intensity. These findings highlight the potential role of pleasant odours in influencing the affective aspects of pain perception induced by this kind of tonic pain. Such evidence might provide new insight for using chemosensory substances as analgesics for modulating the cognitive aspects of neuropathic pain. This work shows the effect of smell on the emotional component of tonic pain, experimentally induced by capsaicin cream application. Previous literature investigated tonic pain in interaction with smell and/or taste stimuli, but mainly with physical methods such as temperature. Our findings add new information in this field, contributing to a deeper insight on the role of olfaction on this particular kind of tonic pain perception. This approach could open to new investigations aimed to consider odours for pain management. © 2020 European Pain Federation - EFIC®.


    Maria Paola Cecchini, Marianna Riello, Angela Sandri, Alice Zanini, Mirta Fiorio, Michele Tinazzi. Smell and taste dissociations in the modulation of tonic pain perception induced by a capsaicin cream application. European journal of pain (London, England). 2020 Nov;24(10):1946-1955

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    PMID: 32780473

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