Photosensitivity Is Associated with Chronic Pain following Traumatic Brain Injury

Nadir M. Balba, Alisha A. Mcbride, Megan L. Callahan, Scott D. Mist, Kim Jones, Matthew P. Butler, Miranda Lim, Mary M. Heinricher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Individuals with a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI) report increased rates of chronic pain. Photosensitivity is also a common chronic symptom following TBI and is prevalent among other types of chronic pain. The aim of this study was to better understand the relationship between chronic pain, pain-related disability, and photosensitivity in a TBI population. We quantified participants' visual photosensitivity thresholds (VPT) using an Ocular Photosensitivity Analyzer and measured pressure-pain sensitivity using pressure algometry. Participants also completed a battery of self-report measures related to chronic pain, TBI history, and mental health. A total of 395 participants completed testing, with 233 reporting a history of TBI. The TBI group was divided into 120 symptomatic TBI participants (s-TBI), and 113 asymptomatic TBI participants (a-TBI) based on their Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory (NSI) scores. Participants in the s-TBI group scored significantly higher on self-reported chronic pain measures compared with a-TBI and no-TBI participants, including the Symptom Impact Questionnaire Revised (SIQR; p < 0.001) and the Michigan Body Map (MBM; p < 0.001). Despite differences in chronic pain complaints, groups displayed similar pressure-pain thresholds (p = 0.270). Additionally, s-TBI participants were more sensitive to light (lower VPT, p < 0.001), and VPT was correlated with SIQR scores across all participants (R =-0.452, p < 0.001). These data demonstrate that photosensitivity is associated with self-reported chronic pain and disability in individuals with chronic TBI symptomatology. Photosensitivity could therefore serve as a simple, more highly quantitative marker of high-impact chronic pain after TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1183-1194
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number17-18
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022


  • Chronic pain
  • Concussion
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Photosensitivity
  • Polytrauma triad
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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