Understanding the nature of pain depends, at least partly, on recognizing its subjectivity (thus, its first-person epistemology). This in turn requires using a first-person experiential method in addition to third-person experimental approaches to study it. This paper is an attempt to spell out what the former approach is and how it can be integrated with the latter. We start our discussion by examining some foundational issues raised by the use of introspection. We argue that such a first-person method in the (...) scientific study of pain (as in the study of any experience) is in fact indispensable by demonstrating that it has in fact been consistently used in conjunction with conventional third-person methodologies, and this for good reasons. We show that, contrary to what appears to be a widespread opinion, there is absolutely no reason to think that the use of such a first-person approach is scientifically and methodologically suspect. We distinguish between two uses of introspective methods in scientific experiments: one draws on the subjects’ introspective reports where any investigator has equal and objective access. The other is where the investigator becomes a subject of his own study and draws on the introspection of his own experiences. We give examples using and/or approximating both strategies that include studies of second pain summation and its relationship to neural activities, and brain imaging- psychophysical studies wherein sensory and affective qualities of pain are correlated with cerebral cortical activity. We explain what we call the experiential or phenomenological approach that has its origins in the work of Price and Barrell (1980). This approach capitalizes on the scientific prospects and benefits of using the introspection of the investigator. We distinguish between its vertical and horizontal applications. Finally, we conclude that integrating such an approach to standard third-person methodologies can only help us in having a fuller understanding of pain and of conscious experience in general. (shrink)
Understanding the nature of pain at least partly depends on recognizing its inherent first person epistemology and on using a first person experiential and third person experimental approach to study it. This approach may help to understand some of the neural mechanisms of pain and consciousness by integrating experiential–phenomenological methods with those of neuroscience. Examples that approximate this strategy include studies of second pain summation and its relationship to neural activities and brain imaging-psychophysical studies wherein sensory and affective qualities of (...) pain are correlated with cerebral cortical activity. The experiential paradigm of Price and Barrell offers the possibility of improved designs and methods for investigating neural mechanisms underlying pain and consciousness. (shrink)
It has been 35 years since the publicationMelzack and Wall's Gate Control Theory whichhypothesized that nociceptive information wassubject to dynamic regulation by mechanismslocated in the spinal cord dorsal horn thatcould ultimately lead to hyperalgesic orhypoalgesic states. This paper examines GateControl Theory in light of our currentunderstanding of the neuroanatomical,neurophysiological and neurochemical substratesof nociception and antinociception. Despiteits initial controversies, no one has proposeda more comprehensive overall theory of painmodulation or has successfully refuted most ofthe basic tenets of this theory.
A scientific understanding of pain requires an experiential‐phenomenological approach and method, one that precedes mechanistic explanations provided by neuroscience, molecular neurobiology, and even the rest of psychology. A key challenge in this approach is to find ways to observe and characterize the experience of pain. An experiential method applied to both clinical and experimental pain has found three common factors in all instances of pain: a somatic or visceral experience that is comprised of 1) unique sensory qualities that are like (...) those which occur during tissue damaging stimulation, 2) a closely related meaning of intrusion and/or threat, and 3) a feeling of unpleasantness and/or other possible negative emotion(s) in response to 1 and 2. These three factors comprise an experiential definition of pain and they are each correlated with brain activities and functional connections that serve them. Much more is to be learned about the factors and their neural basis. (shrink)