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Airing Pain 112: Measuring Pain, Reading the Brain

How pain’s sub­jec­tiv­i­ty makes it dif­fi­cult to mea­sure, rewiring the brain, and new research that allows patients to visu­alise their pain

This edi­tion is fund­ed by the Plum Foundation.

In this edi­tion of Air­ing Pain, return­ing con­trib­u­tor Mark John­son, Direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Pain Research at Leeds Beck­ett Uni­ver­si­ty, speaks to Paul about the exper­i­men­tal meth­ods used in their lab to mea­sure how pain is expe­ri­enced. Pro­fes­sor John­son empha­sis­es the dif­fi­cul­ty in com­mu­ni­cat­ing one’s pain, as it is entire­ly con­text dri­ven and based on the expe­ri­ences of the patient.

Paul then heads to Man­ches­ter Uni­ver­si­ty to speak to Pro­fes­sor of Neu­ro-Rheuma­tol­ogy Antho­ny Jones. Paul learns about the dif­fer­ent tech­niques used to mea­sure the alpha waves pro­duced by the brain when pain occurs, how the antic­i­pa­tion of pain is as impor­tant as pain itself, and the dif­fi­cul­ties that sci­en­tists encounter when try­ing to emu­late these sig­nals. We also hear about the brain’s ‘plas­tic­i­ty’; its abil­i­ty to rewire con­nec­tion based on sen­so­ry experience.

Anthony’s research team are devel­op­ing a ‘smart neu­ro-ther­a­pies’ plat­form (which you can get involved in, see ‘More Infor­ma­tion’ below), a way for patients to mea­sure their brain’s alpha waves, which are impor­tant in con­trol­ling sen­so­ry expe­ri­ences. The research could have sig­nif­i­cant impli­ca­tions in pain man­age­ment. The team are employ­ing a unique col­lab­o­ra­tive the­atre piece, ‘Pain, the Brain and a Lit­tle Bit of Mag­ic’ to help patients, health­care pro­fes­sion­als, and the pub­lic to under­stand these com­plex systems.

Issues cov­ered in this pro­gramme include: Brain imag­ing, brain sig­nals, com­mu­ni­cat­ing pain, elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy, fibromyal­gia, neu­ro-rheuma­tol­ogy, neu­ro-ther­a­py, neu­ro­path­ic pain, research, rewire the brain, sleep and trigem­i­nal neuralgia.


  • Pro­fes­sor Mark John­son, Pro­fes­sor of Pain and Anal­ge­sia and Direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Pain Research, Leeds Beck­ett University
  • Pro­fes­sor Antho­ny Jones, Pro­fes­sor of Neu­ro-rheuma­tol­ogy at Man­ches­ter Uni­ver­si­ty, Human Pain Research Group Lead, cre­ator of ‘Pain, the Brain, and a Lit­tle Bit of Magic’.

More infor­ma­tion: