Understanding the relationship between maladaptive learning and musculoskeletal pain

Disease - Chronic pain

Lead applicant - Dr Ben Seymour

Organisation - University of Oxford

Type of grant - Special strategic award

Status of grant - Approved

Amount of the original award - £502,487

Start date - 01 March 2022

Reference - TBC

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

To better understand the process within the brain that allows us to adapt and recover from injuries and explore how this process is associated with chronic pain.

Why is this research important?

Despite its prevalence, we still don't know why some people get chronic pain, and others do not. One suggestion is that the processes in the brain that normally allow us to adapt to an injury and recover from it, are used excessively meaning that pain becomes exaggerated and prolonged. This is known as maladaptive brain learning, however evidence is very limited due to the lack of techniques able to measure and quantify brain learning. The researchers will apply scientific tools to better the understanding of how learning works within the brain of people living with musculoskeletal conditions and how this correlates with chronic pain outcomes in people presenting with lower back pain and fibromyalgia.

How will these findings benefit patients?

This study could reveal how learning is associated with chronic pain experienced in people living with musculoskeletal conditions. This could support the development of targeted treatments in the future, aimed to reduce pain outcomes and improve quality of life.