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The Pain Research section is currently headed by Dr Matthew Howard.  Matt received his training at the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool and Melbourne, then worked in commercial research prior to joining the Institute of Psychiatry in 2005.  The research team currently includes several clinical researchers, three post-doctoral fellows and two PhD students.


The major focus of the pain research group is to utilise novel neuroimaging methodologies to improve our understanding of the cerebral basis of clinical pain and its treatment.

We work closely with the imaging physics, analysis and neuropharmacology groups, applying innovations in these areas to increase our awareness of how the brain represents pain.  Our work includes the study of acute pain, as might be experienced following surgery or injury, and understanding the ongoing malaise experienced by individuals suffering with persistent pain (e.g. low back pain, osteoarthritis).  Our focus on clinical pain is made possible by long-standing collaborations with clinicians and basic scientists working within the King’s Health Partnership.

A key aim of the group is to develop imaging-derived markers of the pain experience that are sensitive, robust and reproducible.  An important element of this work is to understand how current successful treatments, such as analgesic drugs, surgical interventions and manual and psychological therapies, alter brain function to provide people with pain relief.  Our ultimate goal is that these novel insights might be used in developing much-needed new treatments for managing pain, using fewer patients, in less time, at a reduced cost.

A broad premise of the group is to study pain within a bio-psycho-social framework.  In collaboration with both the Department of Psychology and via links with the KCL “Pain: Science and Society” MSc course, our work also involves studying interactions between people in pain with others, including care-givers, families and clinical practitioners.  These studies include neuroimaging investigations in concert with other behavioural assessment techniques.

Principal collaborators

Professor Tara Renton  (Oral Surgery, Dental Institute)

Dr Mick Thacker (Biomedical Sciences)

Dr Aikaterini Fotopoulou (Psychology)

Dr Fernando Zelaya (Neuroimaging)

Dr Jonathan O’Muircheartaigh (Clinical Neuroscience)

Dr Andre Marquand (Neuroimaging)

Current Funding Bodies

Pfizer Global Research and Development

Hope for Depression Research Foundation

National Institute for Health Research

Royal College of Surgeons

British Pain Society


King’s College Hospital

Recent Publications

Howard MA, Sanders D, Krause K, O'Muircheartaigh J, Fotopoulou A, Zelaya F, Thacker M, Massat N, Huggins JP, Vennart W, Choy E, Daniels M, Williams SC.  Alterations in resting cerebral blood flow demonstrate ongoing pain in osteoarthritis: An arterial spin labelled magnetic resonance imaging study. Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Aug 29. doi: 10.1002/art.37685

Howard MA, Krause K, Khawaja N, Massat N, Zelaya F, et al. (2011) Beyond Patient Reported Pain: Perfusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging Demonstrates Reproducible Cerebral Representation of Ongoing Post-Surgical Pain. PLoS ONE 6(2): e17096.

Sambo CF, Howard M, Kopelman M, Williams S, Fotopoulou A. (2010) Knowing you care: effects of perceived empathy and attachment style on pain perception. Pain. 2010 Dec;151(3):687-93.

Marquand A, Howard M, Brammer M, Chu C, Coen S, Mourão-Miranda J. Quantitative prediction of subjective pain intensity from whole-brain fMRI data using Gaussian processes. Neuroimage. 2010 Feb 1;49(3):2178-89.




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