Neural mechanisms of endogenous pain control

Year of award: 2018


  • Dr Benjamin Seymour

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

Chronic pain is a global clinical problem which has led to a crisis of opioid addiction. Opioids work by activating the brain’s endogenous pain-killing system but cause problems because they also activate reward and addiction networks. 

My research aims to understand why we have such a powerful pain-killing system and how it works to control pain. I have identified a specific brain signal in the human frontal cortex that may act as a central decision-maker in turning down the level of experienced pain. I will carry out human experiments built around a core hypothesis about how this signal works, its inputs, how the decision is computed and where in the brain it exerts its effect on pain. 

My findings will be used to design precision, non-drug approaches using biomedical engineering that selectively harness the system to provide pain relief.