Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


PROBING-PAIN Report Summary

Project ID: 336130
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Belgium

Mid-Term Report Summary - PROBING-PAIN (Multimodal functional neuroimaging techniques to probe the representation of pain in the human brain)

The ability to perceive pain is crucial for survival, as exemplified by the injuries and reduced life expectancy of people with congenital insensitivity to pain. Furthermore, pain is a major healthcare issue and its treatment, especially in the context of pathological chronic pain, constitutes a very problematic challenge for physicians. Because of its aversive quality and its high prevalence, chronic pain affects the quality of life of millions of individuals and imposes a severe financial burden upon our societies. Yet, how the perception of pain emerges from human brain activity remains a largely unresolved enigma. Crucially, the nociceptive system, conducting noxious sensory input from the periphery to the brain, is not a static hardwired system. Following injury, inflammation or sustained noxious input, plastic changes in nociceptive pathways take place at both peripheral and central levels. These changes lead to sensitization and are thought to contribute largely to the establishment and maintenance of chronic pain.

In this project, we develop new methods to study non-invasively how pain is represented in the human brain, and how changes in brain function may lead to the development of chronic pain. A first approach consists in using “frequency tagging” to mark brain activity specifically related to the perception of sustained experimental pain in the human electroencephalogram. A second approach consists in combining electroencephalography or functional magnetic resonance imaging with transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation or transcranial focused ultrasounds to measure directly the changes in brain connectivity and excitability related to the development of chronic pain.

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