Understanding mechanisms that drive pain perception in early human development

Year of award: 2017


  • Prof Rebeccah Slater

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Pain in infancy has negative long-term consequences and its prevention is a clinical priority, but adequate pain treatment requires mechanistic understanding of the structural and functional development of human pain-related brain circuitry. Recent scientific and technological advances provide insights into how noxious information is transmitted to the infant brain, providing a platform to ask how intrinsic brain network connectivity and the environment affect pain-related brain activity, behaviour and ultimately pain perception in the developing infant nervous system.

As infants cannot describe their pain, we are reliant on alternative methods to measure their pain experience. Our goal is to understand the mechanisms that drive and modulate pain perception in early human development. We will ask how inherent differences in how the brain behaves at rest influences pain-related brain activity, and how this relationship is altered by environmental factors and pathology. We aim to establish how the development of structural and functional network connectivity alters pain experience, and influences the dynamic relationship between brain activity and behaviour.

Our findings will help us develop new pain treatment options for infants.