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Advisory Committee Chair

Laurence A Bradley

Advisory Committee Members

Olivio Clay

Jeffrey Edberg

Jarred Younger

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2017

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

There is a growing body of literature that lends support to the relationship of perceived stress and pain perception. However, this relationship is influenced by many factors, including the duration of the stressors and the health of the individual. Additionally, physiological mechanisms underlying this relationship have not been fully characterized. Thus, the current investigation aimed to evaluate relationships between self-reported life stress and subsequent physiological responses (e.g., systolic blood pressure (SBP), plasma cortisol, and circulating resolvins) to an acute noxious stressor. A total of 50 community-dwelling adults without chronic pain participated in the study (50% African-American, 52% female). Prior to pain testing, participants reported perceived stress on the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale – Stress Subscale (DASS21-Stress). They then underwent a cold pressor task (CPT) at 8 degrees Celsius, during which they reported pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings. Blood draws and SBP measurements were collected at baseline, during, and following the CPT. Results indicate that, consistent with hypotheses, higher levels of perceived stress predicted greater pain intensity reports during the CPT. However, despite a significant positive correlation, perceived stress was not found to be a significant predictor of pain unpleasantness ratings in a regression model including covariates. Additionally, higher reported stress predicted significant SBP reactivity during the CPT. In contrast, perceived stress did not significantly predict baseline SBP, nor SBP recovery in the 5 minutes following the CPT. No significant relationship amongst perceived stress and cortisol levels were found. Finally, a relationship between RvD1 and perceived stress was identified only at a trending level; however, no significant relationships were identified between resolvins D1 or D2 and reports of pain intensity, unpleasantness, or perceived stress. The results of the present study add to the existing literature by incorporating perceived life stress into the study, rather than relying solely on laboratory-induced stressors, and integrating multiple physiological systems into the analyses. Notably, these results may have important clinical implications, suggesting that individuals reporting increased perceived stress may respond more strongly to subsequent stressors. Thus, perceived stress may be important to assess when considering pain sensitivity and physiological reactivity to an acute noxious stressor.

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