Headache impairs attentional performance: a conceptual replication and extension

N Attridge, C Eccleston, D Noonan, E Wainwright, E Keogh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Pain is thought to capture our attention. A consequence is that our performance on other tasks may suffer. Research has supported this, showing that pain disrupts our ability to perform various attention tasks. However, the specific nature of the effect of pain on attention is inconsistent, possibly due to different studies investigating different types of pain. Few studies seek to replicate basic findings. Here, we conceptually replicated and extended the headache study by Moore, Keogh Eccleston (2013), by including two additional attention tasks, a broader sample, and measures of affect and pain cognitions. Participants performed five complex attention tasks and a choice reaction time task with and without a naturally-occurring headache. Headache slowed reaction times to four of the five complex tasks, and this could be attributed to a slower basic processing speed as measured by the choice reaction time task. Our findings differ from those of Moore et al?s headache study, suggesting that the effect of pain on attention is dynamic, even within a given type of pain. While there is growing evidence that pain does disrupt attention, we cannot yet predict the specific nature of disruption in any given case.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
JournalThe Journal of Pain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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