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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.


Wednesday, June 7 @ 9:00am EST (9:00pm CST)

Title: Selective and replicable neuroimaging-based indicators of pain discriminability


Presented by: Li-bo Zhang (PhD Student), Chinese Academy of Science, Division of Mental Health and Behavior Genetics, Beijing, China


Abstract: Neural indicators of pain discriminability have far-reaching theoretical and clinical implications but have been largely overlooked previously. Here, to directly identify the neural basis of pain discriminability, we apply signal detection theory to three EEG (Datasets 1–3, total N = 366) and two fMRI (Datasets 4–5, total N = 399) datasets where participants receive transient stimuli of four sensory modalities (pain, touch, audition, and vision) and two intensities (high and low) and report perceptual ratings. Datasets 1 and 4 are used for exploration and others for validation. We find that most pain-evoked EEG and fMRI brain responses robustly encode pain discriminability, which is well replicated in validation datasets. The neural indicators are also pain selective since they cannot track tactile, auditory, or visual discriminability, even though perceptual ratings and sensory discriminability are well matched between modalities. Overall, we provide compelling evidence that pain-evoked brain responses can serve as replicable and selective neural indicators of pain discriminability.

Corresponding Paper:


Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 856 3234 6658

Passcode: replicable

Thursday, June 29 @ 11:00am EST (10:00am CDT)

Title: A somato-cognitive action network alternates with effector regions in motor cortex


Presented by: Dr. Evan M. Gordon, Assistant Professor of Radiology, Neuroimaging Labs Research Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, United States


Abstract: Motor cortex (M1) has been thought to form a continuous somatotopic homunculus extending down the precentral gyrus from foot to face representations1,2, despite evidence for concentric functional zones3 and maps of complex actions4. Here, using precision functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods, we find that the classic homunculus is interrupted by regions with distinct connectivity, structure and function, alternating with effector-specific (foot, hand and mouth) areas. These inter-effector regions exhibit decreased cortical thickness and strong functional connectivity to each other, as well as to the cingulo-opercular network (CON), critical for action5 and physiological control6, arousal7, errors8 and pain9. This interdigitation of action control-linked and motor effector regions was verified in the three largest fMRI datasets. Macaque and pediatric (newborn, infant and child) precision fMRI suggested cross-species homologues and developmental precursors of the inter-effector system. A battery of motor and action fMRI tasks documented concentric effector somatotopies, separated by the CON-linked inter-effector regions. The inter-effectors lacked movement specificity and co-activated during action planning (coordination of hands and feet) and axial body movement (such as of the abdomen or eyebrows). These results, together with previous studies demonstrating stimulation-evoked complex actions4 and connectivity to internal organs10 such as the adrenal medulla, suggest that M1 is punctuated by a system for whole-body action planning, the somato-cognitive action network (SCAN). In M1, two parallel systems intertwine, forming an integrate–isolate pattern: effector-specific regions (foot, hand and mouth) for isolating fine motor control and the SCAN for integrating goals, physiology and body movement.

Corresponding Paper:


Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 849 4635 5688

Passcode: action

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