Acute pain disrupts prospective memory cue detection processes

Margarida Pitães, Christopher Blais, Paul Karoly, Morris A. Okun, Gene Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Prospective memory refers to the planning, retention, retrieval, and execution of intentions for future behaviours and it is integral to the enterprise of daily living. Although prospective memory relies upon retrospective memory and executive processes often disrupted by pain, limited research has explored the influence of acute or chronic pain on the ability to complete prospective memory tasks. In the present study we investigated the influence of acute pain on prospective memory tasks that varied in their demands on executive processes (i.e., non-focal versus focal prospective memory cues). Complex-span working memory tasks were also administered to examine whether individual differences in working memory capacity moderated any negative impact of pain on prospective memory. Acute pain significantly impaired prospective memory performance in conditions that encouraged non-focal strategic processing of prospective memory cues, but not in conditions that encouraged more spontaneous focal processing. Individual differences in working memory capacity did not moderate the effect of acute pain on non-focal prospective memory. These findings provide new insights into prospective memory dysfunction created by painful experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
StateAccepted/In press - Jun 29 2018


  • memory for future intentions
  • pain
  • Prospective memory
  • working-memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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