Our group takes a computational approach to uncover the neural mechanisms that underlie human pain perception and its cognitive modulation. We take the perspective that pain is not solely a passive reaction to noxious stimulation, but is actively constructed by the central nervous system and thus amenable to change.
Available PhD projects
While our group investigates the neural processes that shape pain perception at all levels of the central nervous system, a special focus is on the spinal cord, which plays a crucial role in pain processing, but is heavily under-researched. We will use cutting-edge neuroimaging approaches to uncover the neural mechanisms that determine for example:
- how our past experiences shape our current pain perception,
- how surprise impacts on the subjective experience of pain,
- how pain relief can be strengthened by using learning mechanisms
- and how the brain and spinal cord interact to establish the multi-faceted experience of pain.
Our research involves extensive behavioural and psychophysiological recordings in combination with various imaging modalities (fMRI, EEG, MEG), where we also develop novel approaches to optimize image quality in the spinal cord. While a large part of our research program is based on experimentally induced neural responses, there is also a significant interest in the organization of intrinsic nervous system activity (i.e. ‘resting state’ signals) and how it interacts with external stimulation. We mostly focus on studies in healthy volunteers, but also test whether our insights have an impact on patients with pain disorders.