Monday, 21 May 2012

Helen's trip to Australia

I have had the privilege of spending the last month working in Lorimer Moseley’s Body In Mind lab in Adelaide. After recovering from the 34 hour flight, the jet lag and FINALLY being able to make a decent cup of tea, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of my experiences with you (and believe me, there were many!). Aside from the obvious highlights of hugging a koala and exploring in great depth the Adelaide Hills wine region (twice), the experience I gained from working in the Body In Mind lab was invaluable. While I was there, I learnt to use a laser to induce experimental pain in healthy participants, and was involved in a study looking at factors that can change pain thresholds. This was a new angle of research for me, as I have previously only been involved in research into chronic pain rather than experimentally induced pain. It was interesting to gain some insight into how the study of experimental pain might add to research into chronic pain to tell us more about the experience of pain as a whole.

 Helen in the illusions room NOI conference, 2012
I also gained experience using a thermal imaging camera which will be a very useful addition to some of our future research using MIRAGE. Disruptions in skin temperature regulation often accompany the disruptions in body ownership seen in various neurological and psychological conditions such as asomatognosia (loss of awareness of a limb), schizophrenia, and Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1. Research has also shown that experimentally induced disownership of a limb is closely linked to limb-specific temperature regulation (Moseley et al. 2008). It would therefore be useful to see how temperature is affected when the normal representation of the body is disrupted in healthy participants using some of our multisensory illusions. In particular, I have been piloting to see what effect the disappearing hand trick has on skin temperature in the ‘disappeared’ hand. 
 Dr. Tasha Stanton and others setting up the Illusions room
My trip to Australia conveniently coincided with the NOI Neurodynamics and the Neuromatrix conference 2012. This was an amazing event, and it was great to see so many clinicians and scientists coming together to try to better understand and treat chronic pain. Throughout my trip I worked with Dr. Tasha Stanton to train up three physiotherapy students to use MIRAGE so they could demonstrate it in the ‘Illusions Room’ at the conference. It went down better than we ever could have hoped, with 45 minute queues to have a go on MIRAGE! There were also a number of people with osteoarthritis who said that the stretching illusion alleviated their pain – one of whom was completely unaware of our ongoing research into the pain relieving benefits of MIRAGE. All in all, the Illusions room was a fantastic success, so thanks very much to Andrew Zacharia, Adrian Primerano, and Kris Krotiris, the physio students responsible for making the whole event brilliant. Along with the rest of the Body In Mind team, I also took part in the Ride for Pain - a community bike ride organised by Lorimer Moseley to help raise awareness about chronic pain. It was a great day, with over 550 riders showing their support. I’m ashamed to admit I opted for the 35km beach ride, while most of the rest of the team completed the gruelling 100km ride through the Adelaide Hills. They all did so well, and if I manage to make it out for next year’s ride I will most definitely be going all the way!
 Riders from the "Ride for Pain" community cycle ride.
The trip was such an exciting opportunity and it was great to work with such brilliant and passionate researchers. It has given me so many ideas of where to take my future research, and is hopefully just the start of some exciting future collaborations.

Written by Helen Gilpin

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