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Pain is a complex, multidimensional, conscious experience. As such, measuring responses to pain can be challenging and requires multiple, diverse measures. We aim to gain a more thorough understanding of human pain perception by using multimodal brain imaging alongside subjective ratings of pain perception and measures of cognition and emotion.

We focus on two main areas of pain research. The first is the relationship between brain structure and function in pain processing. Differences in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics such as fractional anisotropy (FA) are associated with pain disorders such as fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia and irritable bowel syndrome. However, the relationship between measures of microstructure integrity, functional brain responses and the subjective experience of pain are poorly understood. We investigate the relationships between these measures to illustrate how multimodal investigations can advance our knowledge of the pain system.

The second research area focuses on the role of cognitive and emotional factors in pain perception. It is known that the experience of a painful stimulus can be changed by manipulating cognitive and emotional factors, for example, performing a cognitive task can act as a distraction from painful stimuli, thus reducing the perception of the intensity of those stimuli. Conversely pain itself can act as a distractor and reduce performance on tasks. These complex interactions influence how acute pain is experienced and also how chronic pain conditions develop and are maintained. Investigating the mechanisms by which cognitive and emotional factors influence pain perception can inform the development of treatment strategies for chronic pain.