Using non-invasive functional neuroimaging techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), combined with novel techniques to selectively activate specific classes of nociceptive afferents, the research performed by the team of André Mouraux (IONS/COSY) follows two main axes. First, to understand how the human brain processes nociceptive sensory input and how this leads to the perception of pain. Second, to understand the plastic changes in nociceptive pathways that occur after inflammation, injury or sustained nociceptive input that induce peripheral and central sensitization and may underlie the development of chronic pain in humans.
The main research interest of the team led by Valery Legrain (IONS/COSY) is to understand the cognitive mechanisms modulating the link between nociception and the conscious perception of pain, and the neurobiological substrates of these cognitive mechanisms. Different approaches are used: neurophysiology (event-related brain potentials), cognitive psychology (mental chronometry) and neuropsychology (investigation of patients with sensory-motor or attentional deficits).
The main objective of my research is to characterize how transient and sustained pain are represented in the human brain, taking advantage of the high temporal and spatial resolution of intracerebral electroencephalography (iEEG). I am particularly interested in investigating the role of the human insula in nociception and pain perception, as several findings suggest that this brain region plays a crucial role in the integration of sensory, affective, and cognitive dimensions of pain.
The research group of Prof. Emmanuel Hermans (IONS/CEMO) has a long-standing expertise in the use of animal models to study the neuroinflammation and plastic changes of the central nervous system induced by neurotrauma, and its involvement in the development of neuropathic pain. His laboratory has experience in the production of animal models of neuropathic pain, the techniques used to study the pain behaviour of these animals, and the immune-histological techniques to characterize the glial activation and changes in nociceptive pathways at peripheral, spinal and supra-spinal level.
At the Cliniques universitaires Saint Luc, the Department of Anaesthesiology is involved in several clinical research projects focusing on the problematic of chronic post-operative pain. The multidisciplinary Chronic Pain Consultation led by Prof. Anne Berquin is involved in clinical research projects aiming at improving the multidisciplinary management of patients with chronic pain, including the development of new psychophysical techniques to assess patients with neuropathic pain, new bio-psycho-social approaches for the care of patients with chronic regional pain syndrome and chronic widespread pain. The Reference Center for Epilepsy (Dr. Susana Ferrao-Santos, Dr. Riem El Tahry) collaborate with us in projects involving intracerebral EEG.