Purpose of reviewPain and cognition share common neural substrates and are known to interact reciprocally. This has implications for treatment and management of pain conditions; pain can negatively affect cognitive performance, whereas cognitively demanding tasks may reduce pain perception. This article will review recent research investigating the impact of pain on cognition and the cognitive modulation of pain.Recent findingsRecent clinical and preclinical studies have provided new evidence for impairment of cognition in pain with a focus on the type of cognitive construct affected and the influence of factors such as age and pain localization. Reduced connectivity between important brain structures has emerged as a possible underlying mechanism. Imaging studies have continued to identify neuroanatomical structures involved in different types of cognitive pain modulation, and attempts have been made to delineate the descending pathways by which pain relief is achieved. New and established methods to investigate cognitive modulation of pain in animal models have revealed insights into the molecular and neurochemical mechanisms involved.SummaryProgress has been made in understanding the complex relationship between pain and cognitive function. However, both synthesis of current research findings and further novel research studies are required to maximize the therapeutic potential.