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Mapping the Affective Dimension of Embodiment With the Sensation Manikin: Validation Among Chronic Pain Patients and Modification by Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement


OBJECTIVE: Mindfulness-based interventions target novel pain relief mechanisms not captured by legacy pain scales, including 1) cultivating awareness of pleasant and neutral sensations proximal to unpleasant sensations and 2) interoceptively mapping sensation location and spatial distribution.

METHODS: We created a digital sensation manikin (SM) by overlaying a human figure silhouette with a grid of 469 “sensation” pixels. A series of five research questions examined the SM’s discriminant validity, construct validity, incremental validity, convergence with an objective measure of pain attentional bias, and sensitivity to a mindfulness-based psychological treatment, Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE). A sample of opioid treated chronic pain patients (n = 108; age, 53.79 (12.94) years; female, 65%) was recruited to answer research questions 1 to 5, and a sample of healthy controls (n = 91; age, 36.47 (13.50) years; female, 55%) was recruited as the comparison group for research question 1.

RESULTS: Chronic pain patients reported significantly more unpleasant sensations than did healthy controls (p < .001, d = 1.23) and significantly fewer pleasant sensations (p = .001, d = 0.50). The SM also evidenced expected relationships with multiple measures of pain (r = 0.26–0.29) and well-being (r = −0.21 to 0.28), uniquely predicted pain interference (β = −0.18), and exhibited a significant association with pain attentional bias (r = 0.25). Finally, mindfulness-based intervention via MORE significantly increased the ratio of pleasant to unpleasant sensations reported by chronic pain patients relative to an active control condition (p = .036, d = 0.51).

CONCLUSIONS:This study supports the SM’s validity and indicates that assessing both pleasant and unpleasant sensations broadens the scope of pain measurement. Although the SM would benefit from further optimization, its continued use is likely to contribute to improved assessment and treatment options for chronic pain patients.


Hanley, A.W. & Garland, E.L. (2019). Mapping the Affective Dimension of Embodiment with the Sensation Manikin. Psychosomatic Medicine, 81(7), pp. 612-621.

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Last Updated: 12/12/23