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Novel approaches to identify brain responses specifically related to the perception of pain in humans


How does the brain process noxious stimuli, and how does this lead to the perception of pain? Human electrophysiological studies using electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography (MEG), as well as studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or positron emission tomography (PET), have all shown that noxious stimuli, or painful stimuli, elicit neural responses in a vast array of cortical structures. Although a large number of investigators have proposed that these brain responses form a cortical network specifically or preferentially involved in the perception of pain (i.e. the so-called “pain matrix”), the actual functional significance of these brain responses remains obscure. For example, recent studies have shown that these responses reflect brain processes that can also be triggered by non-noxious stimuli and that these may be largely related to non-specific mechanisms of arousal and/or attentional capture. Hence, to progress in our understanding of the cortical mechanisms underlying the perception of pain, novel approaches are needed to identify brain responses more specifically related to the processing of noxious input. This will constitute the main objective of the present research project, which will combine novel methods to analyse EEG, MEG and fMRI signals, with novel methods to activate the nociceptive system in humans.

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Place De L Universite 1
1348 Louvain La Neuve
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 45 000
Administrative Contact
Jean-Louis Thonnard (Prof.)