Experimenter- A nd infrared thermography-derived measures of capsaicin-induced neurogenic flare among non-hispanic white and black adults

Brook A. Fulton, Emily F. Burton, Sabrina Nance, Janelle E. Letzen, Claudia M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Capsaicin is a widely utilized experimental pain stimulus; however, few studies have reported on ethnic differences in pain responses to capsaicin. The present study used infrared thermography to 1) measure differences in capsaicin-induced neurogenic flare between non-Hispanic black (NHB) and non-Hispanic white (NHW) adults and 2) determine the association between neurogenic flare and secondary hyperalgesia.Methods. Fifty-four participants (NHB N28) underwent heat/capsaicin sensitization model procedures. Neurogenic flare was examined using experimenter (i.e., subjective) and thermography (i.e., objective) measurements. A typically nonpainful mechanical punctate probe was used to measure secondary hyperalgesia.Results. Ethnic groups did not significantly differ in age, sex, marital status, or personal income. Although experimenters rated a significantly wider area of capsaicinrelated neurogenic flare among NHW compared with NHB participants (F1, 52 = 8.33, P = 0.006), thermography results showed no differences between groups in neurogenic flares (F1, 52 = 0.01, P = 0.93). Further, although NHB individuals reported greater average pain during the capsaicin procedures compared with NHW individuals (NHB=58.57 [3.67], NHW=46.46 [3.81]; F2, 51 = 5.19, P = 0.03), the groups did not differ in secondary hyperalgesia (F2, 51 = 0.03, P = 0.86), and ethnicity did not moderate the association between neurogenic flare and secondary hyperalgesia (F3, 50 = 0.24, P = 0.87).Conclusions. Findings cautiously support the use of infrared thermography over subjective experimenter report when measuring neurogenic inflammation in diverse samples. However, infrared thermography should not be used as a diagnostic tool for pain, given the lack of association between these factors. Future research is warranted to replicate these findings in a larger and more diverse sample to determine accurate neurogenic inflammation measures across other ethnic minority populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2262-2270
Number of pages9
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2020


  • Capsaicin
  • Ethnic Differences
  • Flare
  • Objective Measurements
  • Subjective Measurements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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