Is finding a pukka neurosignature for pain on the top of our discovery list?

Earlier this month, Nature Reviews Neurology published a Consensus Statement from a presidential taskforce of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), on the use of brain imaging tests for chronic pain. The statement answers the question of whether chronic pain can be identified ‘objectively’. Whether or not brain imaging can … [Read more...]

Placebo Analgesia from a Rubber Hand

A sense of embodiment, that is, ownership, over one’s own body is a pervasive sensation that is rarely interrupted or lost. Despite being ubiquitous, the influence of embodiment on treatment outcomes is still unknown. If, for instance, the feeling of ownership was lost over a limb, as can be the case following neurological damage, how might this … [Read more...]

Embodied Pain: negotiating action

We determine our world through the actions we take. Whether from the inside or out, our bodies provide us with the means to actively investigate our environment. This investigation is vital to survival. Active investigation enables us to reduce the uncertainty of the world, accommodate the unexpected, and better predict the consequences of our … [Read more...]

Intense pain influences the cortical processing of visual stimuli projected onto the sensitized skin

Imagine that you are cooking, your food in the oven is ready and you want to take it out. Hunger makes you impatient and you put your bare hand into the oven, but you accidentally touch the hot surface. You get a painful burn. The area of the burn becomes and remains more sensitive for a while. If you were to touch or apply a sharp object on that … [Read more...]

Long-term elbow pain: is the brain more at fault than the tendon?

Tennis elbow (known in medical terms as lateral epicondylalgia) is a common condition that presents with pain on the outer aspect of the elbow. Despite its name, the condition is not restricted to tennis players and can affect anyone performing repetitive movements of the forearm (manual labourers, typists etc). In fact, tennis elbow affects up to … [Read more...]

Get involved! Translating evidence into practice: Cognitive behavioural techniques for back pain

Translating research into clinical practice is a challenge for researchers in all fields. I work in the UK and funding bodies here appear to be keenly aware of this, and are increasingly providing opportunities to engage with this challenge through dissemination activities and improved research-clinician engagement, for example. Our group at the … [Read more...]

Cognitive Functional Therapy for chronic low back pain: The patients’ perspective

Pain and lack of function are the two main factors that motivate people with non-specific chronic low back pain (CLBP) to seek care [1]. When you ask a person with CLBP what treatments they have tried, the answer is often in the form of a shopping list: manual therapy, stabilising exercises, Pilates, yoga, medication, injections… and so might the … [Read more...]

Talking your pain away…

Like other important sensations, pain elicits automatic nonverbal expressions. The functional significance of these expressions has been recognised by Charles Darwin (Darwin, 1872), who dedicated an entire book to them. In this book, he acknowledged that nonverbal expressions serve as signals for interaction partners. However, he also argued that … [Read more...]

Chronic Pain: Lost Inhibition? PART TWO

In our last blog (Chronic Pain: Lost Inhibition?) we talked about the role of the thalamus in the development and maintenance of orofacial neuropathic pain. We reported that painful trigeminal neuropathic pain (PTN) is associated with altered thalamic anatomy, function and biochemistry, which may disturb central processing and play a key role in … [Read more...]

Directing Attention to Pain

Pain captures our attention instantaneously, and makes it hard to pay attention to anything else. But is it possible to direct attention to pain voluntarily and in a specific manner? Which brain mechanisms would drive voluntary direction of attention to pain? Why is this important? It is likely that chronic pain patients have exaggerated … [Read more...]