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The Pain Analgesia/Anaesthesia Imaging Neuroscience group is a multidisciplinary team of scientists and clinicians. We research how the human central nervous system generates and modulates painful experiences in acute and chronic settings. We are interested in understanding how analgesics and states of consciousness during anaesthesia influence painful experiences and impact perception.

Fmrib p a i n group

Latest Media

Read Prof. Irene Tracey's latest interview in the Independant, entitled: How much does it hurt?: The methods used by doctors to measure pain. 


Interested in helping us understand how the brain processes pain?

Please follow the link to learn more and contact us to see if you can get involved 


The ability to experience pain is old and shared across species. It confers an evolutionary advantage and provides a warning of harm or impending threat. However, when it becomes chronic, as it does in approximately 20% of the adult population with significant suffering and cost implications for society it is no longer advantageous and can ruin lives.See Pain in Europe and Relieving Pain in America

An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage
International Association for the Study of Pain

As far back as Hippocrates, it was understood that the brain was key to a person experiencing pain. Fortunately, these days we have many techniques available to explore the human central nervous system (CNS) noninvasively from a functional, structural and chemical perspective in both patients and healthy subjects. Identifying non-invasively where functional and structural plasticity, sensitisation and other amplification or attenuation processes occur along the pain neuraxis for an individual and relating these neural mechanisms to specific pain experiences, measures of pain relief, persistence of pain states, degree of injury and the subject's underlying genetics, has neuroscientific relevance and potential diagnostic value.

Such read-outs provide a ‘behind the scenes’ measure of the nociceptive processing that underpins the subjective ‘healthy’ acute pain experience as well as mechanisms relevant to the development and maintenance of chronic pain states. They can be powerfully used to aid explanation of a subject’s multidimensional pain experience or analgesia.

Importantly, these technologies have contributed to a better understanding of the consequences on the human CNS of patients left with poorly managed chronic pain. Current work focuses on identifying what aberrant CNS mechanisms might make an individual resilient or vulnerable to developing a chronic pain condition. It is our contention that 'pain neuroimaging' will play an increasing role in pain neuroscience, clinical decision-making and analgesic drug development in the coming decade. We are also interested in the neural mechanisms by which anaesthetics alter pain perception and awareness.

Our group aims to understand pain perception, analgesia and altered states of consciousness through advanced neuroimaging. 


Selected publications


  • Media Appearances

    Latest: Prof. Irene Tracey discusses the question "Can we really see someone’s pain?" - BBC Oxford


Related research themes