Negative affectivity predicts decreased pain tolerance during low-grade inflammation in healthy women

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • T.e. Lacourt
  • J.h. Houtveen
  • J.a. Bosch
  • M.t. Drayson
  • L.j.p. Van Doornen

Colleges, School and Institutes


Introduction: Experimental animal studies provided evidence for a synergistic effect of immunological and psychological stressors on subsequent sickness behaviours. Up to now, little corroborating evidence for such synergy exists for humans, in whom it may provide a mechanism leading to the expression of functional somatic symptoms. The aim of the present study was to determine an interaction between stress(-vulnerability) and an immunological activation on experimental pain sensitivity, i.e., pressure pain threshold and tolerance in healthy humans. Methods: In healthy female participants (n = 25, mean age 22.3 years), negative affectivity (NA) and experienced stress were assessed by questionnaire before receiving a Salmonella typhi vaccine or saline control in a randomized blinded cross-over design. Pressure pain threshold was assessed at the lower back and calves and pain tolerance was assessed at the thumbnail, before and six hours after each injection. Results: Vaccination induced leukocytosis (+100%) and increased serum IL-6 (+670%). NA predicted decreased pain tolerance after vaccination (β = −.57, p = .007), but not after placebo (β = .25, p = .26). Post-hoc analyses also demonstrated an association with administration order. Discussion: NA moderated the effects of inflammation on pain tolerance. This finding is consistent with a synergistic model whereby inflammation may lower the threshold for pain reporting in individuals with increased vulnerability for somatic symptom reporting.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-36
JournalBrain, Behaviour, and Immunity
Early online date14 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Inflammation, Inflammatory response, Interleukin-6, Cytokines, Pain sensitivity, Algometry, Pain tolerance, Pain threshold, Pressure pain, Experimental pain, Vaccine, Placebo, Randomized control, Stress, Life events, Negative affectivity, Negative affect, Human