Shifting away from pain: Neurocognitive approach to explain and predict the response to the modern neuroscience approach for treating patients with whiplash associated disorders

01 January 2019 → 31 December 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Behavioural neuroscience
    • Behavioural neuroscience
Project description

Acute pain helps us to avoid danger. When pain becomes chronic, however, and there is no (longer)
tissue damage, it can be very disabling. Chronic whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) is one type of
chronic pain, typically characterized by neck pain. Many patients with WAD show poor treatment
responses, presenting a challenge for rehabilitation. Recently, a new treatment was proposed: the
modern pain neuroscience approach. This approach starts with pain neuroscience education. It
explains, for instance, that pain can be present in the absence of tissue damage and that certain
beliefs and fears regarding pain can amplify pain signaling via the brain. The second step is exercise
treatment, emphasizing and challenging expectations, beliefs and fears regarding movements and
pain. The proposed study will use neuroimaging to examine the neurocognitive effect of this new
approach. For example, by studying how the brain processes pain, and whether treatment changes
this. In addition, we examine the structure of the brain, such as whether communicatory neural
pathways get stronger with treatment. We compare patients receiving the new treatment with
patients receiving care as usual, and compare both groups with pain-free controls. With this study,
we aim to unravel the working mechanisms of this promising treatment, and aim to explain and
predict inter-individual differences in responses to treatment. The ultimate goal is to optimize and
tailor the treatment to the individual.