Human Pain Seminar Series

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This series was borne out of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, which posed significant challenges to the pain community. Its purpose was to reinforce the message that the we—those who do human pain research—are part of a community.


I put together the #WeAreAllInThisTogether COVID-19 Journal Club. It's an opportunity to connect, to remain intellectually stimulated, to learn, and to keep up with the literature. 

It has evolved into a Seminar Series that highlights the work of our community, and allows members of the community at any stage of their career engage with the speakers.


We are supported by the University of Toronto Centre for the Study of Pain.

We meet over Zoom every so often - about every 3 weeks. The specifics, papers, and link to the Zoom will be posted here.


We look forward to seeing you all.


Friday, July 23 2021, 12 noon EST

Title: Brain plasticity for alternative hand control: From phantoms to supernumerary robotic fingers

Presented by: Dr. Tamar Makin, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, London, UK

Abstract: Following arm-amputation, brain areas that previously operated the hand will be freed-up, and could potentially be “recruited” to work for other body parts. This process, termed brain plasticity, is widely held to result in the experience of phantom limb pain (pain that is perceived to be arising from the missing hand), and is therefore considered to be maladaptive. I will present evidence to challenge the proposed link between brain plasticity and phantom pain, and instead demonstrate that brain representation of the missing hand persists decades after amputation. I will next explore the idea the idea that brain plasticity can be harnessed to support adaptive behaviour. I will demonstrate hand-like representation of the toes of foot painters, born with missing upper limbs. Finally, I will present some recent studies looking at how able-bodied participants learn to use a robotic Third Thumb to provide a first glimpse into brain plasticity for motor augmentation. I will argue that brain plasticity is best driven by meaningful inputs, and could be exploited for improving rehabilitation, with exciting opportunities for substitution and augmentation devices. A more nuanced understanding of brain plasticity is needed in order to clarify the neural basis of phantom limb pain.

Zoom Link:

Wednesday, September 16, 2021, 10 am EST

Tentative Title: The role of the hippocampus in pain

Presented by: A. Vania Apkarian, Director, Center for Translational Pain Research, Professor of Physiology, Anesthesiology and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, USA.


Abstract: TBD

Zoom Link: TBD

Meeting ID: TBD

Password: TBD

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