December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
The Impact of Fibromyalgia Pain on Space and Time Perception
Author Affiliations
  • Mirinda Whitaker
    University of Utah
  • Akiko Okifuji
    University of Utah
  • Sarah Creem-Regehr
    University of Utah
  • Jeanine Stefanucci
    University of Utah
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 3217. doi:
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      Mirinda Whitaker, Akiko Okifuji, Sarah Creem-Regehr, Jeanine Stefanucci; The Impact of Fibromyalgia Pain on Space and Time Perception. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):3217.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Certain bodily and emotional states have been shown to alter time and space perception. One such state is pain, with both experimentally induced and chronic pain showing effects on time perception and some preliminary evidence suggesting effects on spatial perception. Further, a long tradition of research has demonstrated that space and time perception are fundamentally coupled and can influence one another. There are several theoretical accounts for this relationship, but one proposed mechanism for how space and time interact is through working memory. Notably, chronic pain is frequently accompanied by impairments in working memory capacity, making it a potential mechanism by which chronic pain may impact time and/or space perception. In the current experiment, Fibromyalgia patients (N=51) and age/sex-matched pain-free controls (N=51), rated their current pain levels and completed a task that measures space and time perception simultaneously (Casasanto & Boroditsky, 2008), as well as an n-back task (to measure working memory capacity). In our sample, we observed a bidirectional effect between space and time perception in which irrelevant spatial information influenced time estimates and irrelevant time information influenced spatial estimates. Pain ratings were significantly higher (3.4 points higher on a 10 point scale) and working memory capacity was significantly lower in fibromyalgia patients compared to controls. However, there was no significant difference between fibromyalgia patients and controls in their estimates of space and time. The lack of difference in time perception between a chronic pain and control population contradicts previous literature. Overall, our results suggest that fibromyalgia patients’ perception of space and time is not impaired despite fibromyalgia patients showing decreased working memory and increased perceived pain compared to controls.


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