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Chronic Pain Reset Program

For chronic pain, we believe that the reason you cannot get rid of your pain is because your brain has changed its function to cope with pain signals. What we want to do is change the communication of your brain cells in ways that reduces the ongoing pain. We are researching two novel approaches, (1) using a new technology called EEG neuro feedback, and (2) through an internte-delivered program to retrain the brain.  These methods aim to teach ways to modulate the communication of your brain cells in a way which reduces your pain and associated symtoms.  Find out more about the upcoming clinical trials.

Emotional Recovery Program

We have developed an online emotional recovery program (iDBT-Pain; Internet-delivered Dialectical Behavioural Therapy  - Pain) to teach chronic pain sufferers skills to self-regulate their negative emotions in a way which decreases both their emotional suffering and pain. The program helps normalise the abnormal brain function and neurochemistry observed in people with chronic pain. Maybe more important, our online program offers hope to people living with disabilities or those in rural and remote communities who often struggle to access pain management services, and can easily be deployed when social and physical interactions are limited. The Emotional Recovery Program is a blended treatment that includes six online emotion recovery skills training sessions delivered via Zoom and a web app via interactive modules and video tutorials.

Early results of the emotional recovery program are very promising and have been published in the Journal of Pain. We are now undertaking research to investigate the program in a larger trial. If you are interested in participating please contact us.

Neuroimaging, Neurobiology and Mental Health Research Program

Beyond the debilitating physical experience of chronic pain, mental health disorders are a common occurrence. Clinical depression is reported in around 54% of people with chronic pain, 35% experience anxiety, around 20% fulfil the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder cooccurs in around 25% of cases of chronic pain, and around 20% of people have a diagnosis of psychosis (e.g. schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder), and/or experiencing psychotic symptoms (e.g. hallucinations, or anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure from positive stimuli).

Our research group is dedicated to unravelling the neurobiological underpinnings of pain and related mental health issues. Using cutting-edge neuroimaging and neurobiological techniques, the program aims to identify biomarkers for pain, and associated mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. In particular, sustained exposure to chronic stress, such as chronic pain, can trigger a cascade of neurobiological changes, including increased inflammation and oxidative stress that are deleterious for the brain.

The mission of the Neuroimaging, Neurobiology and Mental Health research program is three-fold:

1.  Identify the early neurobiological changes occurring in the aftermath of pain sensation. This approach will identify important targets for early, individualised intervention and prevention of chronic pain.
2.  Clarify if pain triggers the development of mental health problems and/or if subclinical underlying risk factors for mental health problems could be responsible for the chronification of pain. Among the various mental health issues reported by people suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder are the most prevalent. Identifying, targeting and treating these comorbid conditions can enhance the success of treatments for chronic pain.
3.  Developing and applying individualised interventions for chronic pain and associated mental health problems. These interventions include neurofeedback brain stimulation techniques such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

Mental Health Research


One of the most common and most difficult pain conditions to treat is chronic nerve pain. Individuals describe nerve pain as a severe burning pain that is unbearable and terrifying. Nerve pain is often accompanied with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. There are currently no effective treatments for this condition, indicating the urgent need to develop and test novel interventions.

Previous theories about the causes of chronic nerve pain focus on the periphery (e.g., damage in a body part). However, consistent and compelling evidence indicates that treatments based on these theories are
not effective at reducing nerve pain. Instead, brain processes are recognised to be key in the development of chronic nerve pain.

Drawing on our discoveries that identified the key role of brain activity in the development of nerve pain, our research is focused on exploring new methods, and new programs which target the abnormal brain activity associated with nerve pain. By investigating innovative technologies like immersive virtual reality and EEG neurofeedback, we will determine if we can affect the changes in the brain that have made chronic pain possible.


From left to right: Researchers, Prof Sylvia Gustin, Dr Rodrigo Rizzo and Dr Negin Hesam-Shariati.

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