"Brain representations of pain sensitivity: Your Brain is Not My Brain!"
Our last research seminar of the series will feature a GSRC keynote speaker and we are honoured to invite Dr. Karen Davis from the Toronto Western Research Institute, to educate us about current topics in ocular science. This seminar will include a reception following the talk to stimulate social interaction between the speaker, faculty, students and our guests.
The efficacy of pain therapeutics varies widely across the population. Cognitive-behavioural, medical, and surgical approaches effective for some people are ineffective in others. Understanding the source of this variability is critical to develop personalized pain treatment strategies, rather than the current one size fits all, trial and error approach. Brain circuitry of the pain and attention systems represents a potential indicator of treatment outcome. How one copes with pain depends, in part, on how much attention is paid to pain vs competing cognitive demands or spontaneous mind-wandering away from pain. Our lab showed that in some people, a painful stimulus interferes with performance on a cognitive task (“P-types”, pain dominates) but in others, cognitive performance is maintained or improved during pain (“A-types”, attention dominates) (Seminowicz et al., 2004; Erpelding et al., 2013). We also reported that some people have a strong intrinsic attention to pain (IAP) but others mind-wander away from pain (low IAP) even without a competing cognitive task (Kucyi et al., 2013). Further, our structural MRI (gray matter, white matter), task and resting state functional MRI, linked circuitry of the pain, antinociceptive, default mode, and attention systems to these behavioural findings. Adaptation to sustained stimuli and habituation to repeated stimuli represents another potential contributor to pain coping. We discovered that despite having lower pain thresholds, women show significantly greater pain adaptation and habituation than men (Hashmi and Davis, 2009; 2014). We also found that women have greater connectivity of the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (a region associated with pain habituation; Bingel et al., 2007) with the antinoceptive system but men have great connectivity with the attention/salience system. Therefore, an individual’s brain circuitry may be closely aligned with how one, attends to, is distracted by, or copes with pain. In the future, a better understanding of such “phenotypes” has the potential to impact personalized pain therapeutics.
Karen D. Davis, PhD is a senior scientist and Head of the Division of Brain, Imaging and Behaviour – Systems Neuroscience at the Toronto Western Research Institute. She is also a full Professor in the Department of Surgery and Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. Since 1993, Dr. Davis has pioneered brain imaging for the study of pain and plasticity. Her lab examines mechanisms underlying chronic pain, pain-attention interactions, brain plasticity, concussion, disease vulnerability and recovery. She obtained a PhD in neurophysiology at the University of Toronto and was a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Davis has published over 140 papers and was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars. She was a Section Head of the journal Pain for 10 years and currently sits on the Council of the International Association for the Study of Pain INMHA, and is vice-chair of the CIHR Institute Advisory Board for the Institute of Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction.
200 Columbia Street West
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1