The ability to experience pain is old and shared across species. Acute pain is the body’s alarm and warning system, and as such a good thing. Chronic pain is the system gone wrong and now one of the largest medical health problems worldwide. The brain is key to these experiences and relating specific neurophysiologic measures from advanced brain imaging to perceptual or non-perceptual changes in pain perception induced by peripheral or central sensitisation, psychological or pharmacological mechanisms has tremendous value. Identifying non-invasively where functional and structural plasticity, sensitisation and other amplification or attenuation processes occur along the pain neuraxis for an individual and relating these neural mechanisms to specific pain experiences, measures of pain relief, persistence of pain states, degree of injury and the subject’s underlying genetics, has neuroscientific and potential diagnostic relevance. As such, advanced neuroimaging methods can powerfully aid explanation of a subject’s multidimensional pain experience, analgesia and even what makes them vulnerable to developing chronic pain. Relatively far less work has been directed at understanding what changes in the brain occur during altered states of consciousness induced either endogenously (e.g. sleep) or exogenously (e.g. anaesthesia). However, that situation is changing rapidly. For example, our recent multimodal neuroimaging work explores how anaesthetic agents produce altered states of consciousness such that perceptual experiences of pain and awareness are degraded. This is bringing us fascinating insights into the complex phenomenon of anaesthesia and selfhood.
AFTER THE TALK CORTEX CLUB WILL HOST A DRINKS RECEPTION IN THE SHERRINGTON LIBRARY.