Pain and Suffering: form philosophical concepts to psychobiological mechanisms


CALL: 2011

DOMAIN: BM - Life Sciences, Biology and Medicine





HOST INSTITUTION: University of Luxembourg

KEYWORDS: Pain, suffering, psychophysics, functional imaging, social factors, interaction, phenomenology, self-others

START: 2011-12-01

END: 2015-03-31


Submitted Abstract

Scholars working in single disciplines in the area of suffering and pain tend to offer one-dimensional accounts, often irreducible and unrelated to views from other fields on the same matter. As a result, we face an explanatory gap between diverse interpretations, limiting ourunderstanding and reducing our proficiency to alleviate the pain undergone. To develop a more holistic account of the phenomena of suffering and pain, an interdisciplinary effort is required.The aim of this INTER proposal FNR-DFG is to provide a novel transdisciplinary framework for research, which will give scientists and persons working in the humanities alike access to knowledge on pain and suffering from an integrative perspective.This project has several levels of complementary scope, merging philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific approaches in collaboration between the Pain Laboratory at the Univ. of Luxembourg (Prof. Fernand Anton) and the Department of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim (Prof. Herta Flor). This exploration will permit the examination of philosophical implications for the clinicalunderstanding of pain and vice versa, as we seek to treat the matter by using a philosophical concept, developed by Dr. Smadar Bustan, which intersects two axes combining the sufferer’s inner world axis (I and myself) with his social world axis (I and other(s)). Exploring theconditions in terms of when the axes converge or diverge, we can measure distinct universes of thought and experience against each other to learn how these different exchanges connect together or instead reinforce the divide between the private experience of pain and its social dimension. In this respect, the experimental work intends to create a strong scientific framework for both the humanities and the natural sciences from which other disciplines could feed.A continuous exchange between Luxembourg and Mannheim will allow the conduct of 3 sets of studies. As theoretical framework, the diagrammatical reasoning of the philosophical research will be employed. Experimentally, we plan to examine which pain stimulation methods would best induce varying degrees of suffering. In this first work package, both groups will coordinate their effort simultaneously to measure pain and suffering and their relations. We hypothesize that high pain levels and higher suffering will lead to focus on the internal world (I-myself) where as high pain levels and lower suffering will lead to a focus on the social world (I-others). We will also examine the neuronal and psychobiological correlates of this scheme in two separate work packages. These hypotheses will be tested in Mannheim usingfunctional imaging and in parallel in Luxembourg using psychophysiological parameters such as startle reflex modulation

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