Oxytocin & placebo effect
The basic hypothesis is that endogenous release of oxytocin (OXT) is involved in the generation and maintenance of placebo effect depending on social cue processing. The project is aimed at examining whether the cognitive appraisal of a situation, based on human social interaction triggers a chain of neural events that may include (but is not limited to) the activation of oxytocinergic system. This research might make some inroads into extending the biochemistry of placebo analgesia.
Cutaneous neuroimmune interactions in the genesis of chronic neuropathic pain
Chronic neuropathic pain is common and disabling, with limited therapeutic options. Cutaneous neuroimmune biology is an exciting new field with huge potential for therapeutic modulation. My project examines the role of bi-directional neuroimmune interactions in the skin as drivers of chronic neuropathic pain. By combining examination of skin nerve fibre subtypes, density and skin immune profile with detailed neurophysiology and clinical assessment I hope to define key alterations in skin neuroimmunology in patients with painful, versus painless neuropathies. This may lead to identification of novel therapeutic targets and more effective therapies for our patients.
Measuring pain in the human infant brain
As infants cannot communicate their pain verbally, alternative methods need to be used to measure infant pain. Traditional pain assessment tools rely on behavioural and autonomic indicators, such as change in facial expression and heart rate. These measures are surrogate measures of nociception and do not provide a true measure of infant pain. To provide a better understanding of the infant pain experience, I aim to use fMRI to explore the cerebral haemodynamic responses to noxious and non-noxious procedures in premature and newborn infants. These studies should provide the first functional recordings of the deeper structures of the brain involved in infant pain processing.
Pain demands the attention of others: parental detection, interpretation and responses to their child's pain
Central to understanding inter personal features of pain is recognition that pain demands attention not only from the sufferer in pain, but also, through behavioural manifestations, the attention from others. The objectives and methodology of this project are threefold: investigating the impact of parental catastrophizing upon (1) parental detection/ attention to pain in their child, (2) parental interpretation/inference of pain of their child and (3) parental responding to pain in their child. The moderating role of the child’s pain expression and contextual characteristics will also be investigated.
Role of nociceptive afferents in neuropathic pain
Neuropathic pain is difficult to treat, because the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. In particular it is unclear which lesion within the nervous system predicts development of neuropathic pain. The aim of the present study is to identify the role of nociceptive pathways by detailed investigation of afferent nerve fibre function. Identification of the impact of different nociceptive afferents on neuropathic pain will have a great impact on future treatment strategies.