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Two possible roles of selective attention in the development and maintenance of functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID) such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were examined. First, hypervigilance to pain within FGID may exacerbate pain perception and pain-related distress. Second, hypervigilance to socially threatening stimuli could account for the disrupted social functioning reported by patients. Furthermore, stress-related variations in reported symptom severity and functioning impairments may reflect changes in cognitive bias with psychological state. Patterns of selective attention were probed within a sample of putative FGID participants (pFGID). The effect of rumination induction on performance on a modified exogenous cueing task was examined. Thirty-three women with pFGID and 27 matched controls responded to dot probes following pain, social threat and neutral word cues, both before and after rumination (passive self-focused thought), or distraction induction. Reaction times revealed that after rumination but not neutral distraction, pFGID participants showed enhanced attention to social threat words, but not to pain or neutral words. Between-group differences in mood, anxiety or depression could not account for these effects. These results implicate selective attention in social but not pain-related idiosyncrasies in FGID including IBS.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Pain

Publication Date





207 - 213


Adult, Anxiety, Attention, Cognition, Cues, Depressive Disorder, Eating, Female, Gastrointestinal Diseases, Humans, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Male, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Pain, Pain Measurement, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time