Pain. 2023 Oct 17. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000003052. Online ahead of print.
Habituation to pain is a fundamental learning process and important adaption. Yet, a comprehensive review of the current state of the field is lacking. Through a systematic search, 63 studies were included. Results address habituation to pain in healthy individuals based on self-report, electroencephalography, or functional magnetic resonance imaging. Our findings indicate a large variety in methods, experimental settings, and contexts, making habituation a ubiquitous phenomenon. Habituation to pain based on self-report studies shows a large influence of expectations, as well as the presence of individual differences. Furthermore, widespread neural effects, with sometimes opposing effects in self-report measures, are noted. Electroencephalography studies showed habituation of the N2-P2 amplitude, whereas functional magnetic resonance imaging studies showed decreasing activity during painful repeated stimulation in several identified brain areas (cingulate cortex and somatosensory cortices). Important considerations for the use of terminology, methodology, statistics, and individual differences are discussed. This review will aid our understanding of habituation to pain in healthy individuals and may lead the way to improving methods and designs for personalized treatment approaches in chronic pain patients.