The first objective of my PhD was to characterize, in humans, the different afferent fiber populations and transient receptor potential (TRP) channels responsible for the ability to perceive innocuous and noxious cold. The second objective of my PhD was to evaluate the clinical usefulness of recording cool-evoked brain potentials (CEPs) to assess the function and integrity of the thermonociceptive system.
Arthur Courtin is now postdoc at Aarhus University.
The general objective of my PhD project was to develop novel noninvasive means to characterize activity-dependent changes in brain function related to central sensitization and chronic pain. At the core of my project was the development of a novel approach based on the recording of TMS-evoked BOLD responses sampled using concurrent TMS-fMRI. As a first step, this was used to characterize changes in cortical excitability and functional connectivity within different brain areas induced by a sustained experimental pain. Subsequently, this approach could be used to study changes in brain function related to chronic pain. In parallel, I was also interested in studying the changes in motor excitability induced by an experimental pain. I combined TMS of the primary motor cortex with, respectively, brief and sustained nociceptive stimulation to characterize the spinal and supraspinal pain-motor interactions triggered by noxious stimulation
Studies have suggested that Alzheimer's disease (AD) is related to changes in brain function that are present already at very early, pre-clinical stages of the disease. For example, recent functional neuroimaging studies have shown early alterations in brain connectivity, and that these alterations are most prominent in highly-connected cortical "hub areas". These hub areas are also those that are most affected by AD lesions. These findings support the view that AD pathology could, at least in part, result from an activity-dependent degeneration. Initial excessive neural firing in hub areas due to increased excitability or connectivity could lead to later neurodegeneration and disruption of connectivity. Very recently, studies conducted by Prof. JN Octave (UCL) have suggested that AD could be related to a decrease in the expression of the cellular Cl- ion extruder KCC2, leading to an increase in intracellular Cl- and, thereby, an inhibitory-to-excitatory shift of GABAA receptor activity. The aim of my project was to test whether GABAergic neurotransmission is altered at early pre-clinical and pre-demential stages of AD as compared to matched healthy controls.
The goal of my project was to develop an original non-invasive approach to characterise Parkinson’s Disease (PD)-related changes in brain network dynamics. It exploited EEG frequency tagging to investigate the large sensorimotor network underlying our ability to perceive and produce musical rhythms. PD patients show strongly impaired abilities for rhythm perception, rhythm production and beat prediction. This can be explained by the fact that the basal ganglia - a key hub of this network - are critically affected in PD. Characterizing these functional changes could constitute a unique mean to directly measure the consequences of a hub dysfunction on neural network in patients, and the modulation induced by neurorehabilitation strategies such as gait auditory cueing.
My research project aimed to investigate how visual experience influences the perception of nociceptive stimuli and pain. More specifically, I compared the cognitive abilities of people with congenital blindness and those of normal sighted people to localize nociceptive stimuli on the body space
I participated in the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI PAIN-CARE; https://www.imi-paincare.eu) project, subtopic BioPain. The aim of this subtopic is to identify and validate a number of functional biomarkers based on non-invasive measures of neural activity (peripheral measures of nerve excitability, spinal and brainstem reflexes, measures of brain activity using electroencephalography [EEG] and functional magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] that can be used in humans to assess the effects of a given drug on the nociceptive system. If successful, these biomarkers would be used in future studies for the early stages of the pharmacological development of novel treatments for pain, and back-translated to animal models.
My research project aimed to investigate how pain affects cognitive abilities to perceive and act in external space. More specifically, using robotic technology and virtual reality, these abilities were investigated in chronic pain patients.
My research project investigated the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying visual-nociceptive integration in the representation of the body and the peripersonal space. More specifically, I used steady state evoked potentials to explore how nociceptive stimulation affects the processing of external visual stimuli in order to form a meaningful multimodal representation of physical threats.
The general objective of my project was to characterize the effects of topical capsaicin treatment on the changes in function and structure of nociceptive pathways associated with the development of chronic neuropathic pain and/or central sensitization. The project was translational, from bench to bedside, combining work performed in an animal model of neuropathic pain and work performed in patients suffering from chronic post-operative pain.
Anne Klöcker performed a postdoctorate research fellow carried out in the framework of the NEUROSENSE project. The purpose of this CWALity project was to develop (i) a vibrotactile stimulator as well as (ii) an EMG system compatible with EEG, IRM and MEG. These devices will be used for non-invasive investigations of the human nervous system. Her role in the NEUROSENSE project was to intervene in the development and the validation process of both devices.
Anne Klöcker continued with a postdoc in the MSL-IN lab (IONS/COSY)
The objective of my research project was to characterize, in humand and animals, the effects on nociception of a high-concentration topical application of capsicum extracts.
The aim of this PhD project was be to develop a new approach to isolate and characterize the cortical activity elicited by the mechanical interactions between the contacting finger pad and tactile displays. Using such stimuli, we will use high-density electroencephalography (EEG) to sample, non-invasively, the cortical activity elicited by mechanotransduction of the finger pad interactions with the tactile displays. Specifically, I developped a new technique based on the recording of steady-state evoked potentials (SS-EPs) to study the cortical processes underlying the perception of complex fine-grained textures.
My PhD was conducted under the joint supervision of Profs. Jean-Louis Thonnard and André Mouraux. The objective of my PhD was to explore the involvement of high-level cognitive resources in the performance of a common manual behaviour. In everyday life, object manipulation is among the most common tasks we perform and is usually performed concurrently to the execution of cognitive tasks. In a recent study we show that mental resources are required for both the planning and the online control of upper-limb movement. By using a motor-cognitive dual-task paradigm, current studies will examine the influence of a cognitive task on the different aspects of precision grip in elders and in patients presenting with a peripheral or central lesion of the nervous system. Indeed, it could well be that with aging and/or following such a lesion, precision grip is even more dependent on cognitive resources.
My main research interest is to understand how attention shapes the elaboration and perception of nociceptive and non-nociceptive inputs, both in healthy and in clinical populations. In 2013, Diana Torta joined the NOCIONS group at UCLouvain on an co-funded Marie Curie-Academie UCLouvain scholarship to explore human nociception and its modulation. In 2016, she obtained a Chargé de Recherche grant from the Fondation National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS) and a post-doc position at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at KULeuven. Using novel techniques based on electroecencephalography, the objective of her postdoctorate research fellowship was to characterize the role of vision and spatial attention on the elaboration of somatosensory stimuli, in particular, nociceptive somatosensory stimuli. In 2019, Diana Torta obtained an academic position at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at KULeuven.
The objective of this postdoc was to develop novel approaches to study the cortical representation of pain in the human brain, using novel techniques combining transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
During her PhD, Elisabeth Colon developed a novel approach to study the cortical processes underlying pain perception in humans based on the recording of nociceptive steady-state evoked potentials (SS-EPs). The aim was to isolate cortical activity more preferentially involved in nociception. We showed that SS-EPs is useful to tag cortical activity related to the perception of sustained pain that possibly reflects nociceptive-specific stages of cortical processing. She then pursued her work as a postdoctorate researcher, with the aim of developing a new approach to study patients suffering from chronic pain with SS-EPs.
Elisabeth Colon continued with a postdoc in the lab of Prof. D. Borsook (Pain and Imaging Neuroscience - PAIN, Massachussets General Hospital). She now works at the Research Administration (ADRE) of UCLouvain.
The topic of my research is how musical rhythm entrains the human brain activity. With the help of Profs André Mouraux and Isabelle Peretz, my co-supervisor in Canada, I developed during my PhD an approach to capture the neural mechanisms of musical beat in humans. Currently, I explore this approach as a mean to investigate human neural mechanisms such as neural entrainment, sensorimotor synchronization and multisensory integration. To this aim, I use surface and intracerebral EEG, coupled with auditory/visual stimulations, and motion recordings. Also, this research gives rise to thoughts about how and why mixing art and science in research activities. Sylvie Nozaradan is now Professor at UCLouvain.