Pain is a perception that occurs in response to what the brain judges to be a threatening situation. To evaluate potential threats, the brain uses information from the body, along with previous beliefs and memories. In this way, pain is a protective response that can trigger useful changes in behaviour that protect from tissue damage or limit further harm. However, for some people, when pain persists for longer than usual healing time, pain does not perform a useful function. This is thought to be driven by unhelpful adaptations in the pain producing system.
Pain can be categorised depending on how long it persists. Acute pain lasts for a short time (less than three months) and typically occurs following injury or surgery. Chronic pain is pain that continues beyond expected tissue healing time even after injured tissues are healed.
Our research approaches
NeuRA conducts research on a range of different pain conditions to understand the mechanisms of pain and to improve pain management. We have conducted several globally-recognised pain research projects which numerous clinical practice guidelines have endorsed internationally.
Our research discoveries
Chronic pain is a significant problem worldwide affecting nearly 8 million Australians. Unfortunately, despite the availability of analgesics and other pain therapies, no treatment has been found that benefits the majority of individuals, and most of the available treatments have significant side effects or risks for serious adverse events. We have discovered that effective pain relief can be achieved by addressing the primary source of pain: the brain. For example, our research has shown that people with chronic pain have an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotions. This imbalance could be making it harder for them to keep negative emotions in check, suggesting that persistent pain might be triggering the chemical disruption.