COVID-19 Journal Club

The COVID-19 Global Pandemic has posed significant challenges to the pain community. To reinforce the message that the we—those who do human pain research—are part of a community, I put together the COVID-19 Journal Club (or as some like to call it, the #PainStars Forum). It's an opportunity to connect, to remain intellectually stimulated, to learn, and to keep up with the literature. 

We meet over Zoom every month. The specifics, papers, and link to the Zoom will be posted here. We look forward to seeing you all.




Wednesday, May 26, 2021, 12 pm EST

Title: Observation of others’ painful heat stimulation involves responses in the spinal cord

Presented by: Dr. Jan Haaker, Research Group Leader, Department of Systems Neuroscience, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

Abstract: Observing others’ aversive experiences is central to know what is dangerous for ourselves. Hence, observation often elicits behavioral and physiological responses comparable to first-hand aversive experiences. However, it is unresolved if first-hand aversive experiences involves neural processes that are similar when we merely observe aversive stimulation in others. I will outline neural and neuropharmacological pathways that are involved in observation of others painful stimulation and overlap with neural systems that process first-hand aversive experiences. This includes responses in the brain, as well as neural responses in the spinal cord. Beside this common cerebro-spinal network, I will further propose a distinct processing of self and others’ pain that is based on activity in the spinal cord.

Relevant Paper: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/14/eabe8444.abstract


Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85352486944?pwd=Rzl1cHNTaU93b3BKTFQ1WW9rOTBIdz09

Meeting ID: 853 5248 6944

Password: Spine

Friday, June 4, 2021, 11 am EST

Title: Pain-related modulations of ongoing oscillations recorded from the human insula using intracerebral EEG

Presented by: Dr. Giulia Liberati, Principal Investigator at the Institute of Neuroscience, UCLouvain, Belgium

Abstract: Pain is a very common experience in everyday life, as it enables us to develop adaptive behavior that is critical for survival. However, to this date, the exact mechanisms through which pain arises from brain activity are still debated. The complexity of studying pain is due to the fact that it is a highly flexible phenomenon that needs to continuously adjust to behavioral demands. This adjustment is evident, for instance, when a circumstance that would generally cause excruciating pain is barely noticed, such as when a soldier is wounded during a battle but keeps fighting, or in a case of an athlete during an important competition. To this end, pain might be better understood by focusing on dynamic features of pain-related activities.My main hypothesis is that pain arises from the modulation of spontaneous and dynamically fluctuating ongoing neural oscillations. To test this hypothesis, I rely on the recording of intracerebral electroencephalography (iEEG) acquired on patients undergoing a presurgical evaluation of focal epilepsy, and on a novel frequency analysis method, frequency tagging of ongoing oscillations (FT-OO).

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88597877994?pwd=QVZNdVNLaWVFSnhMR1JLK1FDVVdNdz09

Meeting ID: 885 9787 7994

Password: iEEG

Tuesday, June 14, 2021, 12 pm EST

Title: Endogenous opioids contribute to the feeling of pain relief in humans

Presented by: Laura Sirucek, PhD Student (Becker and Schweinhardt Labs), Balgrist University, Switzerland

Abstract: Endogenous opioids mediate the pleasurable responses to positively reinforcing stimuli such as palatable food. Yet, the reduction or omission of a negative experience can also be rewarding (negative reinforcement). As such, pain relief leads to negative reinforcement and evokes a pleasant feeling in humans. While it has been shown that the feeling of pleasure associated with positive reinforcement is at least partly mediated via endogenous opioids, it is currently unknown if similar neurochemical mechanisms are involved in the pleasant feeling evoked by pain relief. In the present study, 27 healthy participants completed two identical experimental sessions, one with placebo and one with naltrexone, an endogenous opioid antagonist. Pain relief was induced by superficial cooling after heat stimulation of capsaicin-sensitized skin. Participants rated the relief and pleasantness in response to the cooling. Endogenous opioid blockade by naltrexone decreased relief and pleasantness ratings compared to placebo (p=0.0027). This study provides evidence that endogenous opioids play a role in mediating the pleasant feeling of pain relief in humans. Clinically, the rewarding nature of pain relief and its underlying mechanisms require consideration because of their potential reinforcing effects on behaviors that might be beneficial short-term but maladaptive long-term.

Relevant paper: https://journals.lww.com/pain/Abstract/9000/Endogenous_opioids_contribute_to_the_feeling_of.98066.aspx

Commentary: https://journals.lww.com/pain/Citation/9000/Do_endogenous_opioids_mediate_or_fine_tune_human.98072.aspx

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82146822911?pwd=SzVpRHhYS2hmL20wdE9uWUZWa3ozdz09

Meeting ID: 821 4682 2911

Password: Opioid

Tuesday, July 6, 2021, 8:30 am EST

Title: A Neuroimaging Biomarker for Sustained Experimental and Clinical Pain

Presented by: Choog-Wan (Wani) Woo, Assistant Professor, IBS Center for Neuroscience Imaging Research, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Sungkyunkwan University, Korea

Abstract: Sustained pain is a major characteristic of clinical pain disorders, but it is difficult to assess in isolation from co-occurring cognitive and emotional features in patients. In this study, we developed a functional magnetic resonance imaging signature based on whole-brain functional connectivity that tracks experimentally induced tonic pain intensity and tested its sensitivity, specificity and generalizability to clinical pain across six studies (total n = 334). The signature displayed high sensitivity and specificity to tonic pain across three independent studies of orofacial tonic pain and aversive taste. It also predicted clinical pain severity and classified patients versus controls in two independent studies of clinical low back pain. Tonic and clinical pain showed similar network-level representations, particularly in somatomotor, frontoparietal and dorsal attention networks. These patterns were distinct from representations of experimental phasic pain. This study identified a brain biomarker for sustained pain with high potential for clinical translation.

Relevant paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1142-7?proof=t

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88643970504?pwd=STlqZm1KeS83QnhJYkxkVExBbElWZz09

Meeting ID: 886 4397 0504

Password: Biomarker

Tuesday, September 24, 2021, 12 noon EST

Title: Can acute pain tolerance be measured remotely? Experiences from an online trial conducted during COVID-19 social distancing

Presented by: Katherine O’Connell, Ph.D. Candidate, Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, Georgetown University Medical Center


Abstract: Large and supportive social environments have emerged as a potential protective factor against pain. In particular, social support has been linked to increased pain tolerance and reduced opioid use after surgery. Social support exhibits the capacity to be enhanced through some forms of meditation; however, it is unknown whether such an enhancement may correspond to improved acute pain experience in healthy adults. Working in the context of COVID-19 social distancing, two acute pain assays were designed to be safe, remote, and highly accessible for a U.S. sample and included a wall sit test and an ice cube holding test. We assessed pain tolerance and social support over online video chat before and after a social meditation training or active control. Trial results will be discussed as well as the strengths and limitations of remote, acute pain research.

Zoom Link: TBD

Meeting ID: TBD

Password: TBD