Hypervigilance for innocuous tactile stimuli in patients with fibromyalgia: an experimental approach.
Van Damme S., Van Hulle L., Spence C., Devulder J., Brusselmans G., Crombez G.
BACKGROUND: Hypervigilance, i.e., excessive attention, is often invoked as a potential explanation for the observation that many individuals with fibromyalgia show a heightened sensitivity to stimulation in various sensory modalities, such as touch and hearing. Compelling evidence for this assumption is, however, lacking. The aim of the present study was to investigate the presence of somatosensory hypervigilance in patients with fibromyalgia. METHODS: Fibromyalgia patients (n = 41) and a matched control group (n = 40) performed a tactile change detection task in which they had to detect whether there was a change between two consecutively presented patterns of tactile stimuli presented to various body locations. The task was performed under two conditions: in the unpredictable condition, tactile changes occurred equally often at all possible body locations; in the predictable condition, the majority of tactile changes occurred at one specific body location. RESULTS: It was hypothesized that the fibromyalgia group would show better tactile change detection in the unpredictable condition and when changes ocurred at unexpected locations in the predictable condition. The results did not support this hypothesis. In neither condition was the fibromyalgia group better than the control group in detecting tactile changes. CONCLUSIONS: No evidence was found to support the claim that patients with fibromyalgia display somatosensory hypervigilance. This finding challenges the idea of hypervigilance as a static feature of fibromyalgia and urges for a more dynamic view in which hypervigilance emerges in situations when bodily threat is experienced.