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Jon Brooks collaborator on £3.3M MRC grant to study chronic pain

Figure reproduced from Howard et al.

26 January 2017

As part of a large grant awarded by the Medical Research Council, Jon Brooks will team up with researchers from King's College London to investigate the underlying mechanisms of chronic pain using functional imaging.

Chronic pain (pain lasting longer than 3-6 months) poses a significant burden to patients, their relatives/helpers and society in general.

Approximately one in five people (particularly women and the elderly) will be affected by chronic pain during their lifetime, and they may struggle to obtain adequate pain relief. Their pain, which started life as a warning signal following damage to the body, lasted longer than the time it took for the body to heal. Why pain persists is not well understood. However, it is now thought that chronic pain is, in itself, a disease of the nervous system rather than something arising solely from the damaged part of the body.

The Medical Research Council under its Experimental Medicine scheme have awarded £3.3M to Professor Stephen McMahon and Dr Matt Howard, King's College London, with Dr Brooks a co-Investigator.

The grant "Stratifying Chronic Pain Patients By Pathological Mechanism - A Multimodal Investigation Using Functional MRI, Psychometric And Clinical Assessment" aims to understand the different contributions each part of the nervous system make to the development and maintenance of chronic pain.These studies will involve patients and healthy subjects, and will try to measure the nervous system response to pain using advanced imaging techniques.

Jon Brooks has pioneered the development and application of these methods, particularly in the spinal cord and brainstem, which are parts of the nervous system that are thought to generate and maintain symptoms of chronic pain.

Further information

Featured Image: Following extraction of the wisdom tooth as part of routine dental surgery, increases in cerebral blood flow (CBF) can be seen in brain areas known to reflect sensory input (in this case pain) from the mouth region. This imaging technique can be used to study on-going persistent pain states, and how changes in CBF relate to the pain perceived by patients. Figure reproduced from Howard et al. (2011) Beyond patient reported pain: perfusion magnetic resonance imaging demonstrates reproducible cerebral representation of ongoing post-surgical pain. PLoS ONE 6:e17096.

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