One of the main goals of research in my lab is to understand the sociocultural, psychological, and neurobiological mechanisms underlying pain assessment and treatment disparities in order to ultimately inform interventions in clinician training aimed at reducing them. I will present findings from two research studies on the pain management decisions of medical students. In one study, medical students saw mock patients over Zoom and in the other medical students engaged in virtual pain management appointments while having their brain responses measured with functional MRI. Across both studies our findings provide support for both of our hypothesized mechanisms of pain treatment disparities: 1) that clinicians may underestimate and undertreat the pain of women and minoritized patients because they do not adequately empathize with those patients’ pain, and 2) that clinician’s may inform their pain management decisions with their stereotypes about the typical pain sensitivity of individuals from the patient’s demographic group.
About the Speaker
Elizabeth Losin is the Bennett Pierce Associate Professor in Caring and Compassion in Adulthood and Director of the Social and Cultural Neuroscience Lab at Penn State. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2012 and spent 8 years as an Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Miami before coming to Penn State. Her passion lies in combining her training in anthropology and neuroscience to explore the bidirectional relationship between culture and the brain. She has investigated how humans acquire cultural beliefs and practices through imitation, how these beliefs and practices shape psychology and brain function by comparing individuals with different socio-cultural backgrounds, and how both processes impact human health and health care. Along with the SCN Lab members, she is currently focusing on how cultural experiences (e.g., discrimination) and social situations (e.g., the doctor-patient relationship) influence pain perception and the brain mechanisms underlying it. Dr. Losin is also excited about sharing scientific knowledge and enthusiasm with the general public.