Brain imaging techniques at Robarts provide n...

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Brain imaging techniques at Robarts provide new insights and possibilities for pain research and managementLONDON, ON (June 17, 1999) -- Today, Robarts researchers, Dr. Ravi Menon and Joe Gati announce the findings of a study that represents one of the first attempts to separate brain areas that are activated by the expectation of pain, from areas of the brain that actually respond to a painful stimulus. This study was a collaboration between Robarts and scientists from University of Oxford*, U.K. Understanding the relationship between brain areas that anticipate pain and brain areas that respond to pain is important in the management of many conditions involving chronic pain.Using a technique called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Joe Gati and Dr. Menon were able to show that regions of the brain that anticipate pain are close to, but distinct, from those areas that respond to pain. Dr. Menon, a Robarts Research Institute scientist and an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario** explains: Previous studies had characterized all these areas as being activated during pain, but by using the Oxford University groups experimental model and analyzing the timing of the fMRI signal, we were able to separate brain areas that anticipated the pain from those that responded to a painful stimulus. The ability to anticipate pain allows us to take action to avoid pain, but if unavoidable, the repeated experiences, such as those suffering chronic pain, can cause additional emotional and behavioral responses. The fact that the two areas that anticipate and respond to pain are so close to each other provides a mechanism to explain how the anticipation of pain can heighten the perception of actual pain even though the level of the painful stimulus remains constant. The relationship between these brain areas also gives us targets for pharmacological, surgical or psychological management of pain, says Dr. Menon.The results of this study will be published in the June 18, 1999 issue of the international scientific journal Science. Joe Gati, Operational Head of functional Magnetic Resonance Research at Robarts, predicts: The significance of the results of this paper will be the topic of discussion in many pain research centres around the world for quite some time. This paper will make us re-think the way we perform pain research and in the long term, manage pain in the clinic.* Co-authors from the University of Oxford include Alexander Ploghaus, Irene Tracey, Stuart Clare, Paul M. Matthews, and Nicholas P. Rawlins.**in the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Diagnostic Radiology & Nuclear Medicine and also a Medical Research Council (MRC) scholar. the study was funded by the Medical Research Council of Canada, the Oxford Center for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) and the Department of Clinical Neurology, Oxford University.For chronic pain patients, pain-related fear is more disabling than pain itself and leads to the clinical patterns of high symptom reporting, depression, and widespread avoidance of pain and movement. Our method may be used to identify effective treatments to reduce anticipation of pain and help improve the quality of life in chronic pain patients, comments Dr. Alex Ploghaus of the Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford. Functional MRI is a safe, noninvasive imaging technique that allows a view into the working brain. Using radio waves and magnetic fields, fMRI produces images of the parts of the brain that are being used when a specific task or activity is being performed. Unlike other techniques, functional MRI can provide very high spatial and temporal resolution which allows subtle discrimination between different brain areas. The 4-Tesla fMRI scanner, co-sponsored by Robarts Research Institute and London Health Sciences Centre, has the highest magnetic field of any human scanner in Canada and is in a select group of high magnetic field scanners worldwide.Dr. Mark Poznansky, President and Scientific Director of The John P. Robarts Research Institute, comments: Almost a half century ago, Wilder Penfield and his colleagues at the Montreal Neurological Institute, created a map of the brain relating to sensory and motor control. Today we are able to use functional MRI to learn how and what parts of the brain allow us to think, to appreciate, and to function. Ravi Menon and Joe Gati, in this work, are providing us with new insight into how the brain works; providing us not only with new knowledge but with new clinical tools in the practice of medicine, especially neurology and neurosurgery.Dr. Bill Bridger, Vice-President Research, The University of Western Ontario, says: This is fabulously interesting work. Western is known around the world for our front-rank research in brain function, and this contribution from Dr. Menon and his colleagues will strengthen our leadership in this area.Tony Dagnone, President and CEO of London Health Sciences Centre said: Im glad to see our investment in the 4-T scanner is paying dividends both for our own researchers and for those from major universities. We are world leaders in this technology.The fact that the Oxford group consulted with and performed the studies here at Robarts is a testament to the type of world-class facility we have right here in London, Ontario. We are truly world leaders in the field of fMRI research and this landmark paper is added proof adds Joe Gati.-30-For more information, please call:Irene Posliff, Communications Officer, The John P. Robarts Research Institute, (519) 663-5777 ext. 1-34409fax (519) 663-3789.