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Exploring the relationship between cognition and self-reported pain in residents of homes for the elderly

  • Joukje M. Oosterman (a1) (a2), Kerst de Vries (a3), H. Chris Dijkerman (a1), Edward H. F. de Haan (a1) (a4) and Erik J. A. Scherder (a2)...


Background: Pain poses a major problem in older adults, specifically for those living in homes for the elderly. Previous research indicates that the presence of pain may be associated with changes in cognitive functions. It is unclear, however, how the reported experience of pain relates to cognitive functioning in elderly people with chronic pain. The present study was intended to examine the relationship between clinical pain experience and neuropsychological status in residents of homes for the elderly.

Methods: Forty-one residents suffering from arthritis or arthrosis completed tests measuring memory, processing speed, and executive function. The sensory-discriminative and the affective-motivational aspects of clinical pain were measured.

Results: Performance on executive function tests was positively related to self-reported pain experience. No relationship was observed between pain and memory or processing speed performance.

Conclusion: The present study shows that executive functioning is related to the severity of subjectively reported pain. Possible explanations for this association are discussed.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: J.M. Oosterman, Experimental Psychology, Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands. Phone: +31 30 253 3651; Fax number: +31 3025 34511. Email:


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