Our research uses brain technologies to understand pain and pain relief, which helps to develop new treatments.
Pain is our body's alarm system. It alerts us to the fact something is wrong and when 'acute' or short lasting it is a good thing. However, longer-term pain, known as chronic pain, is pain that persists beyond 3-5 months and is the dark side of pain. It is one of the largest medical health problems worldwide affecting 1 in 5 adults. It can be very difficult to manage, and patients suffer with additional problems such as mood changes and loss of sleep.
Brain technologies can help us to understand how the brain and spinal cord produce painful experiences. This knowledge helps us to develop new treatments that we hope will benefit chronic pain sufferers.
Using brain technologies, our research aims to:
Using brain technologies to understand how anaesthetics stop you from being aware and feeling pain.
Identify new treatments for pain
Using what we learn from brain technologies to develop new drug, surgical, technological, talking (psychological) and physical therapy approaches to treat acute and chronic pain.
Investigate pain mechanisms
Using brain scans to investigate how the body generates the various experiences of pain and pain relief as well as how the brain can powerfully reduce or increase the pain experienced.
For more information about pain, please listen to the following radio programs from Prof Irene Tracey:
To learn more about our research into pain, please see articles written by Prof Irene Tracey for the Dana Foundation, titled Finding the Hurt in Pain and about Prof Irene Tracey by the New Yorker titled The Neuroscience of Pain.
To view artwork created about the experience of chronic pain, please visit the Pain Exhibit.
General information about pain research is available from the International Association for the Study of Pain.
Irene Tracey. Pain: A Ladybird Expert Book. Penguin, 2020.
Joanna Bourke. The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers. Oxford University Press, 2014.
Walter A. Brown. The Placebo Effect in Clinical Practice. Oxford University Press, 2013.
Ronald Melzack and Patrick D. Wall. The Challenge of Pain. 2nd edition, Penguin, 1996.
Elaine Scarry. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Oxford University Press,1985.
Susan Sontag. Regarding the Pain of Others. Hamish Hamilton, 2003.
Patrick Wall. Pain: The Science of Suffering. Columbia University Press, 2000.