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Pain, Suffering, and the Flexible Self Open Access


Other title
chronic pain
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Ozier, Douglas
Supervisor and department
Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Kuiken Don (Psychology)
Mrazik, Martin (Educational Psychology)
Westbury, Chris (Psychology)
Van Vliet, Jessica (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation is comprised of three articles that use neuropsychological research and technologies to consider the issues of organized flexibility, the self, and pain versus suffering. The first study outlines a theoretical model based on the contention that the human mind emerges in part through the interaction of three, large-scale, neural sub-systems. We describe how rigid patterns of interaction between these neural subsystems putatively lead to rigid modes of self-related processing, and thus contribute to “suffering”. The second and third articles describe two studies designed to test the potential of LORETA neurotherapy to ameliorate psychological suffering, in this case by teaching a cohort of chronic pain patients to increase their neural flexibility. There is currently a lack of clarity around the kind of electrophysiological activity that is specifically associated with the suffering aspect of chronic pain. Therefore, the second article describes a study in which a cohort of chronic pain patients entered a state of chronic pain related suffering. LORETA EEG analysis was then used to investigate the electrophysiological activity that was specifically associated with this suffering. This study failed to find statically significant results, however it did produce qualitative support for the hypothesized pattern of neural changes. Finally, the third study directly tested the possible efficacy of LORETA neurotherapy as a chronic pain management intervention. LORETA neurotherapy was used to teach a cohort of eight participants with mixed chronic pain conditions to volitionally down regulate activity in the mPFC, a region that is crucial to for autobiographical self-related processing. Participants in an active control condition were trained in Autogenics and CBT, a well-established approach to chronic pain management. The neurotherapy group members developed the ability to volitionally regulate their neural activity in the intended manner, improved their phasic pain regulation abilities, and demonstrated statistically significant clinical improvements in mood and functional status. However, the observed phasic pain regulation improvements were not statistically significant, and were not associated with the observed neural changes in the expected manner. These results are interpreted and their implications discussed.
License granted by Douglas Ozier ( on 2011-07-18T18:26:09Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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