Brown Bag Talk by A/P Stuart Derbyshire on 12 September


Speaker: A/P Stuart Derbyshire

Title: Determining the neural determinants of pain

Date: 12 September 2014, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


The results of functional imaging studies have demonstrated that there is a characteristic ‘neuromatrix’ for pain involving the thalamus, primary and secondary somatosensory cortices and prefrontal, anterior cingulate and insular cortices. This finding has been replicated in many studies and complements the psychological understanding of pain as a multidimensional experience involving sensory, affective and cognitive processes. For all its apparent sophistication, however, it is arguable whether functional imaging has provided anything more than a highly sophisticated description of pain. Any mechanism that might explain or determine the experience of pain remains elusive. One approach to this problem is to move away from static descriptions of brain function and explore the underlying connectivity of functional  brain regions. Chronic functional pain, for example, might be understood as a failure of connectivity from brain stem structures to cortical regions that typically dampen pain experience. Preliminary attempts to demonstrate such failed connectivity in fibromyalgia patients will be presented. Another approach to the problem of descriptive functional studies is to accept that pain is fundamentally subjective and so cannot be reduced to neural networks, no matter how sophisticated the modeling might be. Trying to develop a theory of pain via functional imaging might be like trying to develop a theory of carpets via physics.

About the Speaker:

Stuart is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at NUS and A*STAR-NUS Clinical Imaging Research Centre (CIRC). He obtained his PhD at the University of London in 1995 and shortly after left for Pittsburgh and then UCLA. After a return to the UK and the University of Birmingham, he arrived at NUS last year. Stuart’s main research area is the relationship between objectivity (such as the wavelength of light) and perceptual experience (such as the colour blue). With brain imaging he tracks the neural basis for sensation and, apart from having fun doing cool things, the aim is to understand disturbing and painful disorders of perception


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