Objective: The quality of perceived stress coping in chronic pain is related to the performance of the prefrontal cortex as the main structure of control and coordination of superior behavior control. The present study explores the presence of prefrontal symptomatology, in the form of problems to manage cognition, emotions and behavior, and perceived stress in a sample of people suffering from chronic pain.
Material and methods: We studied 78 participants with a diagnosis of chronic pain ranging in age from 27 to 81 years (mean 54.2 and d.t 13.4). Sociodemographic and clinical variables were analyzed together with the results in the 11-item Short Brief Pain Questionnaire (CBD) to assess the intensity and interference of pain, the Prefrontal Symptom Inventory (ISP), both in its complete version of 46 items and in the abbreviated
of 20, and the 10-itme Perceived Scale of Perceived Stress (EEP).
Results and discussion: Significant correlations between the prefrontal symptomatology and the intensity (r = 0.32) and the interference (r = 0.53) of the pain, as well as between the stress and the interference of the pain in the mood (r = 0.36). People report more painful feelings when they refer more cognitive and emotional management problems surrounding the environment.
The general interference of pain is related to more motivational and attention problems, while the interference that the pain produces in the mood also increases the problems with
executive and emotional control. A preliminary structural equation explaining the effect is proposed.
Conclusion: The data suggest that the stress perceived by people with chronic pain depends on the inability of the prefrontal cortex to cope with a changing or threatening situation and this problem is fed back over and over as the person is less
able to cope with the environment. Therefore, comprehensive treatment of chronic pain should include psychological interventions focused on coping with stress and cognitive optimization of skills related to prefrontal functioning.
Key words: Chronic pain, cognitive symptoms, prefrontal cortex, stress, neuropsychology.