Chronic pain disorders are amongst the most burdensome of all diseases in terms of their impact on the individual and the costs to society. The development of novel therapeutic approaches for chronic pain have relied on basic studies involving genetic and molecular approaches in rodent models of pain, but existing drugs generally provide very limited relief for only a small number of patients. The result is that a vast number of people with chronic pain go untreated and have only partial relief. There is substantial and growing evidence from within and outside the pain research fields that indicates neural oscillations reflect cognitive, emotional, and sensory processes, which are all components of the pain experience. Furthermore, we can target these oscillatory patterns to alter perception. In particular, alpha band activity has been associated with chronic pain, and our extensive recent work and preliminary findings indicate that alpha can reliably predict future sensitivity to pain experienced minutes to weeks in the future in healthy subjects. In the proposed studies, we use simultaneous EEG-fMRI to continue our ongoing work on alpha oscillations as pain mechanisms and extend it to test the specificity and sensitivity of the signals and the relationship between alpha, brain networks, and pain. The proposed work would lead to improved understanding of the neurobiology of pain, identify novel brain targets for new or improved interventions, and potentially reveal a prognostic biomarker that would be useful for testing new therapeutic approaches and objectively assessing clinical improvement on an individual basis.
Development of treatments for chronic pain has been limited, but the potential for using brain signal predictive and prognostic biomarkers is growing. In the proposed studies we aim to understand the mechanisms of an electroencephalogram (EEG) based brain oscillation that predicts pain sensitivity in healthy subjects. The findings will provide a major step forward in the development of novel therapies for chronic pain and individualized treatment approaches.