There are currently 40,000 individuals living with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) in the UK alone and as many as half of these experience a particularly nasty form of chronic pain triggered by damage to the nervous system (neuropathic pain). This can develop within weeks of the injury or may take several years. It can occur at and below the level of injury and may include both spontaneous and evoked components. In some patients, the pain is so severe that it becomes an overriding preoccupation, preventing employment and seriously impacting quality of life. Current medications are frequently ineffective and have unwanted side effects. One impediment to the development of more effective therapies is a poor understanding of the mechanisms underlying this form of pain.
The aim of this project is to investigate the mechanisms of below-level pain in SCI patients by comparing pain pathways in patients that have developed neuropathic pain with those who, despite similar injuries, are pain free. We will investigate whether sparing of the spinothalamic tract is necessary for development of pain after neurologically complete injuries using sensitive tests based on laser stimuli. Supraspinal mechanisms of chronic pain will also be investigated using EEG and functional brain imaging (fMRI) to identify activity and connectivity that is specific to the brains of patients with neuropathic pain. The results will contribute to a better understanding of why this type of pain occurs and may suggest targets and approaches that can be used to prevent it. They may also suggest ways in which we can identify those at risk of developing this pain and tools with which it can be objectively measured.
For details of this 3.5-year project with Dr John Riddell, Dr Jozien Goense, Dr Guillaume Rousselet & Dr Mariel Purcell in Glasgow (funded by the INSPIRE Foundation), go to https://www.findaphd.com/search/projectdetails.aspx?PJID=87218
Informal enquiries and applications can be made directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications should include a full CV with qualifications, accompanied by a personal statement setting out the reasons that you are applying for this studentship.
The deadline for application is 28 July 2017