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New ideas on pain and action

Neuroimaging and neurophysiological studies in humans have shown that transient nociceptive stimuli causing pain elicit responses in an extensive network of cortical structures. This network, often referred to as the “pain matrix”, has been assumed to specifically reflect nociceptive processing, and extensively used in the past 30 years to gain knowledge about the cortical mechanisms underlying nociception and pain perception in humans. Inthistalk I will provide evidence that, in contrast with this dominant view, thesebrain responses are not specific for the perception of pain. These results indicate that it is incorrect to refer to these responses as originating from a “pain matrix”, and question the appropriateness of relying on them to infer that an individual is in pain, or to build models of where and how nociceptive input is processed in the human brain to generate painful percepts. Instead, I will suggest that the largest part of these brain responses reflecta basic mechanism through which the individual detectsand prepare motor responses to behaviourally-relevant sensory events, regardless of the sensory channel conveying this information.

Giandomenico Iannetti

  • Principal Investigator at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) and Professor of Neuroscience at University College London (UCL).
  • He leads a multidisciplinary researchgroup (www.iannettilab.net) working on sensorimotor neuroscience in humans and rodents.
  • After a PhD from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (2003) and a post-doc at the University ofOxford (2003-2006), in 2006 he was awarded a Royal Society University Fellowship, which hestarted at the Univeristy of Oxford.
  • In 2009 he moved to University College London (UCL), wherein 2014 was appointed Full Professor of Neuroscience.
  • His research is funded by programme grants of the Wellcome Trust, European Research Council and Medical Research Council.

New ideas on pain and action

Neuroimaging and neurophysiological studies in humans have shown that transient nociceptive stimuli causing pain elicit responses in an extensive network of cortical structures. This network, often referred to as the “pain matrix”, has been assumed to specifically reflect nociceptive processing, and extensively used in the past 30 years to gain knowledge about the cortical mechanisms underlying nociception and pain perception in humans. Inthistalk I will provide evidence that, in contrast with this dominant view, thesebrain responses are not specific for the perception of pain. These results indicate that it is incorrect to refer to these responses as originating from a “pain matrix”, and question the appropriateness of relying on them to infer that an individual is in pain, or to build models of where and how nociceptive input is processed in the human brain to generate painful percepts. Instead, I will suggest that the largest part of these brain responses reflecta basic mechanism through which the individual detectsand prepare motor responses to behaviourally-relevant sensory events, regardless of the sensory channel conveying this information.