Jim W. Ibinson, MD, PhD Assistant Professor, Anesthesiology
In a 2011 report to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Institute of Medicine stated that that “relieving pain should be a national priority”, estimating over 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain with costs for medical treatment and lost productivity of up to $635 billion yearly. The overall understanding of the basic mechanisms behind the initiation, maintenance, and treatment of chronic pain is poor. Functional neuroimaging has the potential to unlock some of these secrets, and has done so for acute pain, however the brain activity of chronic pain has not been adequately addressed. The chief focus of my research is the functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) of pain processing. I have three main projects currently underway. First, I am currently combining Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Imaging of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to image the effects of chronic neuropathic pain in pain patients. Second, I am using functional connectivity imaging to explore the changes in connectivity that occur during pain processing, possibly revealing new information about the accommodation phenomenon by highlighting areas whose functional connectivity change with prolonged stimulation. Finally, I am preparing to perform capsaicin-pain phenotyping and genotyping of normal healthy subjects with co-investigators within the Center of Pain Research while imaging their brains with ASL and BOLD based scans to determine which areas of the brain relate to the temporal dynamics of the pain response, and determine if genotype-dependent response type affects brain activation. By completing the above, I aim to specifically understand how the brain operates during chronic pain and how this can be translated toward impactful results on the clinical care of pain patients, allowing further refinement of current chronic pain treatment strategies.