Visual reminders of death enhance nociceptive-related cortical responses and event-related alpha desynchronisation

Elia Valentini, Valentina Nicolardi, Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Previous research suggests that prompting individuals to think on their own mortality affects their perception of painful somatic stimuli and related brain activity. Grounded on the assumption that reminders of mortality may recruit threat-defence mechanisms similar to the ones activated by painful nociceptive stimuli, we hypothesize that the effects exerted by linguistic reminders of death on pain perception and brain activity would be elicited by passive observation of death-related pictures vs. more generic threat-related pictures. Results showed an increase of the laser evoked P2 amplitude and oscillatory theta activity when participants observed death-related images. However, no change in pain ratings was found. Moreover, observation of death-related content was linked to increased oscillatory alpha desynchronisation but not to variations of visual evoked potentials amplitude. Our findings indicate that pairing potentially noxious stimuli with death-related images exerts a preferential modulation of nociceptive and visual cortical representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-130
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Alpha
  • EEG
  • Laser evoked potentials
  • Reminders of mortality
  • Terror management theory
  • Theta
  • Visual evoked potentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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