Gender discrimination facilitates fMRI responses and connectivity to thermal pain.
Zhang M., Zhang Y., Mu Y., Wei Z., Kong Y.
Gender discrimination is a serious social issue that has been shown to increase negative consequences, especially in females when accompanied by acute or chronic pain. Experiencing social pain through discrimination can increase an individual's evaluation of evoked physical pain. However, few studies have explored the mechanism underlying how gender discrimination modulates brain responses when individuals experience physical pain evoked by noxious stimuli. In this study, we addressed this issue using a gender discrimination fMRI paradigm with thermal pain stimulation. We found that discrimination indeed affected participants' own behavioral self-evaluation of noxious stimuli. Discrimination-encoded brain activations were identified in the temporopolar cortex, while brain activations to thermal stimuli after viewing pictures of discrimination were found in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). Brain activations in the temporopolar cortex and the dACC were correlated. Furthermore, pain perception-specific functional connectivity of the dACC-SII in the cue stage and the dACC-frontal in the pain stage were identified, suggesting a facilitative effect of gender discrimination on females' experience of physical pain. Our results indicate that the dACC may play a central role in mediating the affective aspect of physical pain after experiencing discrimination. These findings provide novel insights into the underlying mechanism of how gender discrimination facilitates females' experience of physical pain.