The Brain in Pain
My name is Javin Sandhu. I am currently a medical student intercalating between years 4 and 5 of medical school to perform an MRes in Medical Sciences. This MRes course provides you with an opportunity to take on a research project that grabs your interest with a supportive supervisor who guides you through the process.
I was fortunate to do my research project in the processing of pain in the brain thereby combining my two core interests: neurology (study of the nervous system) and anaesthetics (drugs that work on the nervous system to put people to sleep). In addition, I have been fortunate to receive the John Snow for Anaesthetic Research funded by the BJA/RCoA to help support me during the master’s degree (please see http://www.niaa.org.uk/article.php?newsid=1454).
When we experience pain, certain regions of the brain are activated. All these regions make up a “pain matrix”. The pain matrix is divided into areas which process the location of pain and the emotional effect of that pain. Chronic pain and acute pain activate the same regions of the pain matrix but to different extents. These differences suggest that we should be aiming to develop ways of imaging ongoing clinical pain. Previous research from the Human Pain Research Group (see below for link), has shown success for treatment approaches such as meditation and placebo. This previous research has also shown an increase in a certain pattern of brain activity (known as alpha activity). There are various methods on how to image the brain’s functions. These approaches depend on how the brain uses oxygen (showing brain activity) or the electrical activity of the brain (which shows which brain cells are transferring information).
What do I investigate?
My research is based upon trying to find a unique pattern of brain activity for chronic pain by measuring the brain’s electrical activity in patients with chronic pain caused by rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. I will be using EEG to pick up the brain’s electrical activity and analysing this data to figure out which areas of the brain are activated. We hope to find a unique pattern of brain activity which can be used in the future to test patients with chronic pain. This would help figure out how much pain these patients are in and to prevent patients which are addicted to painkillers “faking their chronic pain”.
You can visit this website for more information about The Human Pain Research Group -(http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/ccn/pain/)
For more information about the MRes Medical Sciences course, please see -(http://www.mhs.manchester.ac.uk/study/masters/courses/medical-sciences-mres/)
Also if you want more information about pain, please see - (http://www.iasp-pain.org/)
Finally, for a brief introduction into brain imaging techniques, please see -(http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/ccn/pain/Research/brainimaging/)