Researcher G Lorimer Moseley of the University of South Australia said, "Our findings show that the brain does not need danger messages coming from the tissues of the body in order to generate pain in that body part -- sensible and reliable cues that predict impending pain are enough to produce the experience of pain. These results suggest a new approach to developing treatments for pain that are based on separating the non-danger messages from the danger messages associated with a movement."

The results showed that the visual feedback played an important role in determining as the participants were feeling pain.

When the display understated actual head rotation, participants had a broader range of pain-free motion; they were able to turn their head about 6 percent farther than they normally would. But when the display overstated head rotation, their pain-free range of motion shrank by an average of 7 percent.

Surprisingly, the participants didn't report any differences in the intensity of pain across the various conditions.

"We were surprised at how robust and predictable this pattern of results was," Moseley added.

While previous research indicated that external cues can influence the intensity of pain experiences, these new results are novel in showing that external cues can also shift the physical point at which pain is experienced.

The researchers note that their work, though experimental in nature, could have significant implications for the clinical treatment of pain.

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