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Secrets of the brain may be key to understanding back pain

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Researchers at Western Sydney University are seeking to discover why some people with acute onset lower back pain recover quickly, while others do not.

Lead researcher of the UPWARD study, Dr Siobhan Schabrun, says the investigations will focus on the ways that the human brain can change and adapt throughout life.

“The brain has this remarkable ability – known as plasticity – which is thought to underlie memory, learning and recovery of function following illness and injury,” says Dr Schabrun.

“If plasticity can be harnessed, there may be a potential to dramatically improve brain performance in healthy individuals and the recovery of those with a range of pathologies.”

Lower back pain can affect people in all walks of life, from office and manual workers to people who strain their back at the gym or from other types of sporting activities.

Researchers are looking to recruit participants whose back has started hurting within the past month and has been experiencing pain for more than 24 hours.

Participants in the project will be required to attend three appointments over a six month period at either a clinic in Randwick or the University’s Campbelltown campus.  The first occurring within four weeks of the onset of a back pain episode, then at three and six months. Participants will also be asked to complete some questionnaires after twelve months.

During these appointments, researchers will monitor the response of the nervous system to different stimuli and to assess neuroplasticity and changes in the brain over time.

The UPWARDs back pain study is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (MHMRC) grant and has human ethics approval from Western Sydney University’s Human Research and Ethics Committee (Approval Number: H10465).

For more information, or if you would like to take part in the study, please contact Lead Researcher, Dr Siobhan Schabrun on or the study manager, Dr Matthew Liston on

(Source: Western Sydney University)

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Posted On: 31 January, 2018
Modified On: 23 January, 2018


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