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Psychology

Pain Research Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Southampton

The Pain Research Laboratory (PRL) was established at the University of Southampton in 2004 by Prof Christina Liossi. Members of the PRL include senior academics and clinicians, researchers, technicians, undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students. Together they work on a range of exciting and innovative projects pushing the boundaries of knowledge and increasing our understanding of the psychological aspects of acute and chronic pain throughout the lifespan and improving how pain is managed by addressing its psychological correlates.

Our programmatic research focuses on three intertwined themes:

  1. the cognitive and affective neuroscience of pain,
  2. the development of theory driven psychological interventions for the management of acute and chronic pain, and
  3. the evaluation of the efficacy and effectiveness of psychological interventions in pain management.

    Below you will find a list of PRL members, along with the active projects they are currently working on with national and international collaborators.
Pain laboratory team
L-R: Dr S. Holley, Prof. C. Liossi, Dr K. Greenfield, Dr D. Schoth.

Members of the Pain Research Laboratory

Academic Staff

Professor Christina Liossi (Director of the Pain Research Laboratory)
Dr Daniel Schoth (Deputy Director of the Pain Research Laboratory)

Research Fellows

Dr Katie Greenfield

PhD and Professional Doctorate Students

Miss Philippa Broadbent, Miss Lauren Baggeley

Lab Alumni

Dr Kim Bull

Former Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Simone Holley, Dr Polly Langdon, Dr Miznah Al-Abbadey, Dr Dan Powell, Anna Hurley Wallace, Lauren Johnson

Facilities and equipment

The PRL features a dedicated temperature-controlled laboratory (along with a private waiting area and kitchen) which hosts state-of-the-art quantitative sensory testing equipment, including the TSA-II Neurosensory Analyser, a bespoke cold-pressor task, Rolltemp rollers, a handheld digital algometer, pinprick stimulators, and a set of von Frey hairs among others. The lab includes two computers, specialist and bespoke software packages for conducting experimental studies, neuropsychological assessments and meta-analyses, and has access to a mobile eye-tracker.

Below: Dr Schoth using the TSA-II Neurosensory analyser to apply controlled noxious and non-noxious heat and cold sensations via thermode to a former PhD student Sam Georgallis.

 

Lab facilities including specialist and bespoke software packages.
Lab facilities including specialist and bespoke software packages.
Dr Schoth using the TSA-II Neurosensory analyser.
Dr Schoth using the TSA-II Neurosensory analyser.

Current Projects

Managing pain in children

A number of projects are currently running in collaboration with researchers at Great Ormond Street Hospital, each of which aims to improve how pain in managed in children.

PARAMOUNT: A multi-centre trial which aims to describe the barriers and facilitators experienced by carers and Health Care Professionals (HCPs) when managing medicines for pain relief for children and young people (CYP) at the end of life (EOL) in out of hospital settings and to develop a structured tool that will educate and support carers and HCPs.

DIPPER: A multi-centre feasibility trial aiming to identify the barriers and facilitators for taking part in an end-of-life RCT of oral morphine/ transmucosal diamorphine for CYP and ascertain the willingness of clinicians to recruit participants.

POMS2a: A multi-centre randomised controlled trial comparing nocturnal auto-adjusting continuous positive airway pressure (APAP) and nocturnal oxygen therapy (NOT) in adults and children with sickle cell anaemia, with patient quality of life, pulmonary physiology (adults), safety, daily pain, and neuropsychology outcomes.

PROMOTE: The PROMOTE (Patient reported outcome measures to enhance communication and quality of life) study, funded by The Brain Tumour Charity  aims to develop and adapt an available online Dutch method (KLIK) to systematically assess health, well-being, and concerns using patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) relevant to children treated for brain tumours and their families and feedback the information to clinicians at routine outpatient clinics.

A pain-target/neutral-distractor trial from a visual-search task.
A pain-target/neutral-distractor trial from a visual-search task.

Cognitive biases and their relevance in pain onset and management

We have pioneered the investigation of pain-related cognitive biases, including those in attentional, interpretation and memory, across a range of adult and paediatric populations. We use a variety of novel experimental paradigms and methods in this line of investigation, including computerised paradigms such as the visual-probe task, spatial cueing task, and incidental learning task, along with the concurrent recording of eye-movements to provide an online index of attentional engagement. We have summarised the cognitive bias literature in our highly cited systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Our research has contributed the theoretical and methodological advances in this field, and we are currently exploring the therapeutic benefits of cognitive bias modification in a randomised controlled trial of individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Assessing Pain-related Cognitive Biases: From the Lab to the Internet

In this video Philippa Broadbent discusses her PhD research and how she has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions in the use of laboratories.

 

change-neutral/distractor-neutral trial
Example stimuli used in our investigations of attentional bias.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses

Members of the Pain Research Laboratory frequently publish systematic reviews and meta-analyses in leading journals. Below you will find an overview of our current reviews, along with links to their registered protocols. 

A systematic review and meta-analysis of conditioned pain modulation in children and adolescents

The primary objective of this systematic review is to examine the efficacy of conditioned pain modulation (CPM) in paediatric populations. The secondary objectives are to (i) assess the influence of experimental and demographic variables on CPM outcomes (pain intensity ratings, pain detection thresholds, pain tolerance, nociceptive withdrawal reflex), and (ii) evaluate the psychometric properties of CPM for children and adolescents (measurement properties included in the main domains (reliability, validity, responsiveness and interpretability) of the COSMIN Taxonomy). Literature relating to CPM in adult chronic pain populations has found evidence of impairments, although heterogeneity exists between studies. CPM ratings (pain intensity ratings, pain detection thresholds, pain tolerance, nociceptive withdrawal reflex) in children and adolescents will be compared to those reported in adults available from the published literature, with comparisons made where similar methodologies have been followed.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of home-based physical symptom management interventions for informal (family) caregivers of patients with life limiting conditions

Many informal carers are managing complex symptoms in patients with life-limiting conditions at home and require training and support in order to carry out their caring duties effectively.  This review aims to identify what interventions have been developed and tested to support informal (family) caregivers to manage symptoms in adult and paediatric patients with life-limiting conditions when caring for them at home, and also to assess the effectiveness of these interventions in improving patient symptoms and caregiver outcomes.

The association between quantitative sensory testing and pain intensity or disability in paediatric chronic pain: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis

The primary objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to examine the relationship between established quantitative sensory testing (QST) measures and pain intensity or disability in paediatric chronic pain (PCP). The second objective is to assess whether the strength of the relationship is moderated by variables related to the QST method and pain condition. Furthermore, this systematic review and meta-analysis will examine: [1] the use of QST in PCP (modalities, outcome measures and anatomical test sites); [2] the reliability of QST across the paediatric age range; [3] the ability of QST to differentiate patients with chronic pain from healthy controls, and [4] differences between anatomical test sites.

A systematic review and meta-analysis to identify the impact of chronic pain on school functioning for children and young people

Chronic pain has a profound impact on children and young people’s lives. In terms of education, chronic pain is associated with poor attendance, overall school impairment, difficulties with concentration, keeping up with schoolwork and school avoidance. Despite the impact of chronic pain on children’s academic lives, to date there has been limited research eliciting school staff’s perspectives on managing pain in a school context, and considering the impact of chronic pain on the school functioning of all school age groups of children and young people. This review aims to [1] Identify the perceived impact of chronic pain on children and young people’s school functioning from the perspectives of children and young people, their families, school staff and professionals. [2] Identify measures of the impact of chronic pain on children and young people’s school functioning.

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