Michael Farrell - Australian Pain Society

Topical Concurrent Session 2C – Fundamentals of neuroimaging for the investigation of pain

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Fundamentals of neuroimaging for the investigation of pain

Chair: A/Professor Michael Farrell, Monash University, VIC
Neuroimaging techniques are frequently used to measure changes in brain structure and function associated with pain processing in humans. In particular, functional brain imaging studies frequently appear in the scientific literature, and have contributed substantially to our understanding of pain processing. However, neuroimaging can deliver information in addition to the familiar maps of “activation”. The nature of these alternative neuroimaging measures, and the questions to which they are applied will be discussed in this topical workshop. The three presenters will each focus on two aspects of the principal neuroimaging modality used to investigate pain – Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

A/Prof Luke Henderson will discuss two techniques that are used to associate structural changes in the brain with the experience of pain. He will briefly describe voxel based morphometry (VBM) techniques, and also discuss tractography based on diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Examples from the pain literature will be used to illustrate the types of hypotheses and questions that are typically addressed by the methods, and how the outcomes are influencing our understanding of pain.

Dr Flavia Di Pietro’s presentation will focus on magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA). She will discuss how MRS can be used to measure levels of metabolites and neurotransmitters in the brain, and how these levels are related to the experience of pain. MVPA as a relatively new form of functional MRI analysis will be highlighted by Flavia, and she will explain how the technique has been used to accurately identify pain experiences and is therefore often presented in the context of “mind reading”.

A/Prof Michael Farrell will discuss the applications of functional connectivity and perfusion-fMRI to the investigation of pain processing. He will explain how functional connectivity can be used to investigate the patterns of signal changes shared by distributed brain regions, and how this network activity is related to pain processing. The challenges of measuring brain responses associated with clinical pain will be discussed, and perfusion-fMRI will be advocated as a suitable method for this type of research.

Presenters:
A/Professor Luke Henderson, University of Sydney, NSW
Dr Flavia Di Pietro, University of Sydney, NSW
A/Professor Michael Farrell, Monash University, VIC