Wheeling Jesuit University

Students Attend International Psychophysiological Research Conference

Psychology professor Bryan Raudenbush takes an active interest in expanding research opportunities for students at Wheeling Jesuit University. That's part of his job as director of undergraduate research but it's also part of his teaching method since he knows that students learn best by doing. That's why the psychology laboratory is a very active place.

Students plan, test and evaluate their own research there daily and come to conclusions about their studies and about their futures. Traveling to national and international conferences is also a big part of research since this is where scientists share information, network and talk shop.

The next trip Raudenbush will be traveling to with students is an Oct. 25 - 29 conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The students going to this conference are co-authors of two studies to be presented on gender stereotyped distractions and visual versus olfactory distractions on pain threshold. Located on the mainland of North America, in the southwest corner of British Columbia, Vancouver is in the westernmost of Canada's ten provinces and the conference will be headquartered at the in the heart of the city's business district.

The studies and students that will be going to Vancouver are described below:

Gender Stereotyped Distractions Differentially Influence Pain Perception and Tolerance in Males and Females study, with senior Kara Blacker, of Bridgeport, Ohio and 2006 graduate Rosanna Drake, of Ellicott City, Md.

This study looks at how visual and physical distractions increase human pain tolerance and the differences in pain threshold and tolerance between males and females. Students examined the effects of gender-specific visual distractions on pain threshold and tolerance, mood, workload, and physiology. Sixty participants (30 males, 30 females) viewed one of two gender-specific videos (one male-an ultimate fighting video, one female-a dramatic love scene), or a non-video control condition. Pain was administered via a cold press test, to a maximum of five minutes, with pain ratings made every 30 seconds. Overall pain ratings were greater for females, and males indicated greater pain tolerance. Males viewing the male gender-specific video produced the lowest pain ratings. Lower levels of anger were found when viewing the male video in comparison to both the female video and non-video control. Participants also reported a significantly higher level of depression while watching the female video as compared to the male video. Physiological measures were recorded pre- and post-procedure in each video condition. Oxygen saturation was higher during the post-test. A trend revealed an increase in pulse rate while watching either video compared to the non-video control. Pulse and systolic blood pressure also decreased over time. These results indicate gender-specific, differential effects on altering pain perception between males and females. These findings suggest a gender and visual presentation interaction, specifically to modify pain distraction. This may be of particular benefit when applied to individuals suffering from chronic pain.

Comparison of Visual versus Olfactory Distractions on Pain Threshold and Tolerance study, with physical therapy graduate student Robert Bailey of North Canton, Ohio and seniors Lindsay Coyne of St. Clairsville, Ohio, Peter D'Amore of Ontario, Canada, Daniel Felbaum of Pasig City, Philippines and Katie Repicky of Kirtland, Ohio.

A variety of distraction techniques (visual, physical, olfactory, etc.) have been effective in mediating pain perception and tolerance. This study compared visual versus olfactory pain distraction methods. Participants completed four conditions: peppermint scent, high arousal (HA) images, low arousal images (LA), and a control condition. Images were from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). After an eight-minute exposure, they completed a cold press test and questionnaires assessing mood (POMS), task load (NASA-TLX), and anxiety (STAI). Physiological measurements (oxygen, pulse, blood pressure) were monitored pre- and post-cold pressor testing. HA produced significantly lower pain intensity ratings than both the LA and the control condition. Peppermint scent produced lower pain ratings than the control and LA conditions. Both peppermint scent and HA promoted increased pain tolerance. HA images led to higher ratings of anxiety. Physiologically, visual stimuli led to lower systolic ratings, and there was an interaction indicating higher post systolic ratings between the peppermint and control condition. Finally, mean arterial pressure increased following the cold press task. Thus, peppermint scent and HA visual images are equally effective in managing pain and altering physiological measurements during a cold pressor task.

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