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Title: Feeling stiffness in the back : a protective perceptual inference in chronic back pain
Authors: Stanton, TR
Moseley, GL
Wong, AYL 
Kawchuk, GN
Issue Date: 2017
Source: Scientific reports, 29 2017, v. 7, 9681, p. 1-12
Abstract: Does feeling back stiffness actually reflect having a stiff back? This research interrogates the long-held question of what informs our subjective experiences of bodily state. We propose a new hypothesis: feelings of back stiffness are a protective perceptual construct, rather than reflecting biomechanical properties of the back. This has far-reaching implications for treatment of pain/stiffness but also for our understanding of bodily feelings. Over three experiments, we challenge the prevailing view by showing that feeling stiff does not relate to objective spinal measures of stiffness and objective back stiffness does not differ between those who report feeling stiff and those who do not. Rather, those who report feeling stiff exhibit self-protective responses: they significantly overestimate force applied to their spine, yet are better at detecting changes in this force than those who do not report feeling stiff. This perceptual error can be manipulated: providing auditory input in synchrony to forces applied to the spine modulates prediction accuracy in both groups, without altering actual stiffness, demonstrating that feeling stiff is a multisensory perceptual inference consistent with protection. Together, this presents a compelling argument against the prevailing view that feeling stiff is an isomorphic marker of the biomechanical characteristics of the back.
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Journal: Scientific reports 
ISSN: 2045-2322
EISSN: 2045-2322
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-09429-1
Rights: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
© The Author(s) 2017
The following publication Stanton, T.R., Moseley, G.L., Wong, A.Y.L. et al. Feeling stiffness in the back: a protective perceptual inference in chronic back pain. Sci Rep 7, 9681 (2017) is available at https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-09429-1
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