High incidence of 'synaesthesia for pain' in amputees

Bernadette M. Fitzgibbon, Peter G. Enticott, Anina N. Rich, Melita J. Giummarra, Nellie Georgiou-Karistianis, Jack W. Tsao, Sharon R. Weeks, John L. Bradshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Synaesthesia for pain is a phenomenon where a person experiences pain when observing or imagining another in pain. Anecdotal reports of this type of experience have most commonly occurred in individuals who have lost a limb. Distinct from phantom pain, synaesthesia for pain is triggered specifically in response to pain in another. Here, we provide the first preliminary investigation into synaesthesia for pain in amputees to determine the incidence and characteristics of this intriguing phenomenon. Self-referring amputees (n= 74) answered questions on synaesthesia for pain within a broader survey of phantom pain. Of the participants, 16.2% reported that observing or imagining pain in another person triggers their phantom pain. Further understanding of synaesthesia for pain may provide a greater insight to abnormal empathic function in clinical populations as well as therapeutic intervention for at risk groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3675-3678
Number of pages4
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Mirror systems
  • Phantom pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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