Pictured at the event were, from left to right: NUI Galway’s Professor David Finn, Dr Line Caes, and Dr Bright Okine; University of Heidelberg’s Professor Herta Flor; and NUI Galway’s Dr Kieran Rea, Professor Brian Leonard, Ms Angeline Traynor and Dr Brian McGuire.
Jan 29 2015 Posted: 09:09 GMT

The Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway organised its annual Research Day on Tuesday 27 January with overwhelming success. The day started with a keynote lecture by Professor Herta Flor, a world-renowned leader in the field of pain-related neuropsychology.

Professor Flor is the Scientific Director of the Department of Neuropsychology at the University of Heidelberg and Central Institute for Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany. Professor Flor’s research focuses on improving our understanding of the development and maintenance of chronic pain by looking at how learning experiences and memory cause changes in the brain areas known to be associated with the experience of pain. Based on her research findings, she has developed and evaluated innovative treatments for chronic pain such as the use of virtual reality applications.

In her presentation, Professor Flor highlighted that chronic pain is associated with maladaptive plastic changes in the brain, showing more widespread activation. Importantly, these changes seem to be influenced by a variety of learning experiences and by memory of events that occurred in the past. This knowledge has led to the development of successful and promising behavioural training interventions such as the Behavioural Extinction Training and mirror treatment.

The other keynote speaker was Dr Line Caes, who recently joined the School of Psychology and the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway. Dr Caes’ research focus is on paediatric pain experience with a special interest in the social context and influences of these experiences. Dr Caes drew attention to the important role that parents’ overprotective behaviours, and feelings of distress in response to their child’s pain, play in how a child adjusts to pain.

The research meeting also featured short oral and poster presentations showcasing local pain-related research from a psychological, neuroscience, and biomaterials perspective. The prize for best short oral presentation was awarded to Dr Kieran Rea for his talk on fear-conditioned analgesia and the possible pharmacological manipulation of this effect – work funded by Science Foundation Ireland. Dr Bright Okine and Angeline Traynor were the recipients of the awards for best poster presentation. Angeline Traynor won the prize for best clinical poster for her research on a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for adults with chronic headache. Bright Okine received the prize for best basic science poster for his Science Foundation Ireland funded work on the role of a putative novel cannabinoid receptor in the medial prefrontal cortex in regulation of pain.

Professor David Finn and Dr Brian McGuire, Co-Directors of the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway said: “We were delighted to be able to welcome to Galway Professor Flor who is a leading authority on the neuropsychology of pain. At least 13% of the Irish popoulation suffer from chronic pain. Pain research is very vibrant at NUI Galway and we will continue in our efforts to better understand pain at both the basic science and clinical levels.”

For more information about NUI Galway’s Centre for Pain Research visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/centre_pain_research/ and for information about the Galway Neuroscience Centre visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/neuroscience

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