Can pain change our brain maps?

We recently published a paper on the function of the primary somatosensory cortex in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). The primary somatosensory cortex (S1) is a region of the cortex –the outer layer of the brain –which houses a precise and organised map of our body’s surface. Every part of our body surface is represented here by a network or … [Read more...]

Placebo Analgesia

One of the best workshops I attended at the IASP congress in Milano was on placebo analgesia, run by three very classy speakers: Luana Colloca, Ulrike Bingel, and Regine Klinger. I learnt lots about the neurobiological mechanisms of placebo and nocebo, and came away with lots to ponder.  This is what I learnt: The rostral anterior cingulate … [Read more...]

Just how much can the coloured blobs tell us

When it comes to treating someone in pain we have one way of knowing if our treatment has effected pain relief, and that is the patient’s verbal report.   Perhaps another way of knowing whether pain has changed is to look at what’s happening in the brain.  Well, this review is addressing precisely this question.  Presented here[1] are the findings … [Read more...]

Timing is everything

Human brain mapping doesn’t go back as far as one might think.  The first brain activation studies used positron emission tomography (PET) back in the late 1980s.   Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, followed in the early 90s and went on to radically change neuroimaging [1]. Given that it’s such early days for brain mapping, it … [Read more...]

Not just another empathy study

In this paper, Lamm and colleagues investigate what might modulate empathy.  While there have been loads of neuroimaging studies in empathy, many have failed to recognise that empathy is highly malleable by a number of factors.  With two fMRI experiments, this group studied two cognitive mechanisms of top-down control—attention and cognitive … [Read more...]

Regret, empathy, espresso

I’ve got news for those of us who thought that Italians just sat around wearing designer sunglasses and drinking fine coffee; it turns out we were wrong.  This fMRI study by a group in Milan is a pearler, and I urge anyone who’s interested to have a look at it.[1] First was a look into empathy: these investigators wanted to know whether the same … [Read more...]

Someone else’s pain—Are you in or out?

One of the bits of the brain I find the toughest to understand is the insula.  We hear about it when the “pain matrix” is discussed.  The insula is part of what is currently understood as the medial pain system— involved in assigning meaning, emotion and affect to the pain experience[1].  Various neuroimaging studies have found activity in the … [Read more...]

More Q than A

Recently I was watching Q&A on the ABC.  For those of you who’ve not seen it, Q&A, short for Questions and Answers, is a debate-style programme which brings together a panel of politicians and other prominents, and takes questions from the audience regarding topical issues.  Every week I find myself intensely frustrated by the ‘answers’ … [Read more...]

Introducing Flavia Di Pietro. Imaging the Brain

Flavia Di Pietro Flavia Di Pietro is a PhD student in the Body and Mind Research Group, Sydney. She is investigating the development of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) after wrist fracture. Specifically, Flavia’s PhD involves brain scanning people who are in a higher than usual amount of pain in the first 3 weeks after the fracture, and then … [Read more...]

Promising results from a graded retraining programme in chronic back pain

Flavia Di Pietro BiM

Reduction in pain and disability with a graded sensorimotor retraining program in chronic back pain Our team recently returned home from Darwin, where we all attended the Australian Pain Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting.  We all presented some of our work up there and had a lot of fun while we were at it.  I presented a poster, based on some … [Read more...]