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 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 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).
My research project involves looking for recurrent TRP ion channel mutations in patients suffering from severe chronic pain, in order to understand whether there is a genetic predisposition to the development of the pain conditions, and to develop personalized therapies to normalize the activity of the mutant channels. To this end, I combine the most advanced state-of-the-art techniques for the biophysical and pharmacological study of ion channels, including electrophysiology, fluorescence spectroscopy, biochemistry, structural modelling. I have also a wide experience in ion channel drug discovery and in the development of genetically modified mouse models for in vivo experiments.
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.
The Reference Center for Refractory Epilepsy of the Cliniques universitaires Saint-Luc is headed by Profs. Susana Ferrao Santos (neurologist and head coordinator of the epilepsy surgery program) and Prof. Riëm El Tahry (neurologist and head of the epileptology research laboratory at IoNS). The unit conducts basic and applied research on the treatment of refractory epilepsy including neurostimulation. The unit also provides access to intracerebral EEG for basic research.
The chronic pain center of the Cliniques universitaires Saint-Luc is a multidisciplinary unit for the assessment and treatment of chronic pain. Headed by Prof. Anne Berquin, it brings together medical specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation, anesthesiology, neurology, psychiatry, neurosurgery, clinical psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, and social workers.
The Department of Anaesthesiology of the Cliniques universitaires Saint-Luc is involved in several clinical research projects focusing on post-operative pain and its treatment. There are 24 operating rooms at CUSL and, in 2017, a total of 20,338 surgical interventions were carried out. Within the department, the transitional post-surgical pain consultation is headed by Prof. Patricia Lavand’homme.