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The Pain of Confounded Expectations.

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University of Bristol

E29 Biomedical Sciences Building

University Walk

Bristol

BS8 1TD

United Kingdom

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A key underpinning principle of scientific investigation is the explicit aim to prove expectation incorrect through experiment. This is a particular challenge for bioscientists, in being able to accept that our presumption is incorrect and recognise that we need to scrap our model and start again from scratch.

Our brains are remarkably good at building models to predict the consequences of our actions but have to regularly, and sometimes dramatically, revise these models in the face of contrary evidence. However, there is a cost and mechanistic challenge to shift from a "black and white” established model to acknowledge the need for revision.

Noradrenaline, a key neurotransmitter, is released both peripherally (by the sympathetic nervous system) and centrally (from the locus coeruleus) in response to salient information to prepare body and brain to respond.

This is particularly relevant in the case of pain - a primal learning signal that triggers profound adaptive behavioural changes that can become pathological if they are not unlearnt as danger recedes and healing occurs. The ability to encourage revision of such flawed neuronal models may lead to better treatment of chronic pain.

I will use some examples from our investigations of pain and autonomic control to illustrate how these have remodelled my prior beliefs (with the help of adrenaline rushes).

By the end of the talk I hope you will know the answers the age old questions of :

  • “How do you tell a Geordie?” (Clue: Divn’t botha hinny they canna be telt…),
  • "Can I trust an anaesthetist to render me comfortably insensate while preserving my life and memories?"
  • and my Mam's weekly enquiry “So... have you found anything yet?"

Followed by free drinks reception.

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Date and Time

Location

University of Bristol

E29 Biomedical Sciences Building

University Walk

Bristol

BS8 1TD

United Kingdom

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