We are CNAP

Who is CNAP? What drives us? What are we currently working on? On this page, some of our team members give an insight into CNAP.

Ana Maria Zamorano-Andrés, Assistant Professor

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My main interest is to explore the effects of extensive sensorimotor training on pain processing with the aim of understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the vulnerability for developing chronic pain. 

In my current project, I am using transcranial magnetic stimulation, electrophysiological, and behavioral tools to measure sensory and motor cortical responses in trained musicians as a model for exploring the interactions between extensive sensorimotor training and pain.

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Gabriela Diaz Valencia, research assistant

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My interest lies in researching the complex processes and pathologies derived from nerve injury in an animal model.

I aim to integrate biomedical engineering and proteomics techniques to get a better understanding of the neuroplastic changes elicited in the brain due to a peripheral injury.

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Mauricio Henrich, PhD Fellow

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My main interest is in understanding tempo-spatial mechanisms involved in the spinal integration of nociceptive stimuli. Using sophisticated electrophysiological techniques, we provoke the nociceptive processing system using electrical stimulation and assess the elicited motor response, called Nociceptive Withdrawal Reflex (together with other psychophysical variables). In the long term, by learning how nociceptive information is processed at the spinal cord in healthy humans, we will be able to understand pathological processes and, therefore, develop better diagnostic and treatment strategies.

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Carsten Dahl Mørch, Associate Professor

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I have always been fascinated by the human ability to sense the world and be conscious about it. The paradox of chronic pain seems to be one of the most difficult riddle to solve: The perception of pain is essential for our survival as an alarm system avoid trauma to the body, but when pain becomes chronic it does not serve that purpose any longer. Too often, chronic pain becomes a devastating and disabling condition for the individual. Therefore, I find the topic of neuroplastic mechanisms in the pain system, the focus CNAP, utterly important. The multidisciplinary composition of CNAP enables a thorough investigation of the basic mechanisms of the pain system. I am currently involved in several projects that investigate the pain system; from the peripheral activation of nerve fibers to central mechanisms of pain perception. These projects involve mathematical modeling of nerve fiber activation during electrical stimulation of implanted electrodes with the purpose of pain relief, but also specific activation of nociceptive nerve fibers in the skin. 

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Sebastian Kold Sørensen, PhD Fellow

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The thought of aiding our bodies and minds with technology has always fascinated me. A promising way of doing this is by modulating the physiology of the brain using non-invasive brain stimulation. My research focuses on using high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation to modulate the somatosensory system. I hope that this research will provide new insights in the mechanisms and potential of brain stimulation to overcome real-world clinical challenges.

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Suzan Meijs, Assistant Professor

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What fascinates me is how it is possible to restore lost functions in humans using electrical stimulation of nervous tissue. Right now, however, I focus on doing the opposite in a large animal model; I am using high-frequency electrical stimulation to induce hyperactivity in pain pathways in the spinal cord. By this we can learn about how such a hyperactive state is triggered in humans, how it affects the brain and hopefully how we can reverse it back to normal.

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Armita Faghani Jadidi, PhD Fellow

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My main interest is to explore the underlying brain mechanism in a phantom limb pain process. It may contribute to finding related biomarkers and based on that possible enhanced treatment for this phenomenon.

The aim of my current study is to investigate the effects of different electrical stimulation patterns on excitability of the corticospinal tract in healthy subjects and amputees with phantom limb pain. This can lead to a better understanding of the sensory-motor cortex relationship and finding a possible optimum pattern to enhance phantom limb pain relief.

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Ali Asghar Zarei, PhD Fellow

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My research interest is to investigate the brain mechanism on pain processing by analyzing brain electrical activity, which helps to recognize biomarkers for a better understanding of the underlying brain mechanism in chronic pain.

My current work aims to explore biomarkers following the modulation of brain activity by steady-state somatosensory stimulation on healthy subjects and amputees with phantom limb pain.

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Dennis Boye Larsen, Assistant Professor

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In view of investigating how plasticity may be an intrinsic capacity that varies among healthy humans, my studies will pertain to probing pain plasticity through the application of a well-established model of early motor plasticity. At CNAP, a diverse team consisting of many different professions such as medical doctors, physiotherapists, and dedicated pain researchers, ensures that advice and opinions are never a shortcoming. Further, this diverse team creates a dynamic and scientifically rich environment, in which my ideas and knowledge can evolve through continuous discussions and dialogues. This ensures a high quality as well as application of my studies.

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Line Elisabeth Lykholt, PhD Fellow

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What fascinates me is cortical plasticity and how this can both be benefical and not benefical for us.

Right now I am working om my PhD, which focuses on the cortical plasticity related to non-noxious and noxious stimulation in rats. I am using both both electrical and thermal stimulation, to assess if one type of stimulation is better than the other for the recruitment of the nociceptive C-fiber responses. I hope this can be used to gain a better understanding of what happens cortically when we experience pain.

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Daniele Riccio, PhD fellow

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My main interest is to understand better the deep relationship between itch and pain, how they interact and how they differ.

Currently, I am using experimental human models of itch and I am investigating the effects of various thermal stimulation (both innocuous and noxious) on the itch sensation perceived by the participants.

Rocco Giordano, research assistant

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My main interest is to investigate epigenetic modifications concerning pain using high-throughput molecular techniques in order to identify molecular pathways that can be at the base of the pain process and neuroplastic changes.

My project aims at the identification of circulating molecular biomarkers, such as long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) and microRNA (miRNA), which could predict the development of chronic postoperative pain after total knee replacements in patients affected by osteoarthritis (OA) and further explain the progression of OA by including patients ranging from early OA to severe OA.

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Jenny Tigerholm, Assistant Professor

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My main interest is to study excitability alterations occurring in small fiber neuropathy patients‚ developing related diagnostic tools and providing guidance for the development of new treatments.

Through computational modeling, I am studying nerve fiber activation to improve the Perception Threshold Tracking (PTT) technique, which is an indirect method to measure the excitability of nociceptor fibers.

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Najah Al Hajri, PhD Fellow

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I am interested in exploring changes in brain connectivity as an index of pain neuroplasticity. Namely, how brain networks reorganize themselves in response to pain. Therefore, I am working now on assessing changes in brain resting state functional connectivity in response to short-term and long-term capsaicin-induced pain using EEG, as well as exploring methods to counteract these changes such as motor learning. 

This could shed more light on the underlying neuroplastic mechanisms associated with the transition from acute to prolonged pain from a network perspective, which may contribute to designing more effective rehabilitation interventions.   

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Priscilla Wittkopf, Postdoc

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Treating patients presenting with varied painful complaints has made me interested in the role of the brain in pain processing.

Currently, I’m interested in how the brain maintains the balance of plasticity in the nervous system at a stable level. My research involves the combination of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques to investigate the effect of pain on homeostatic plasticity.

Marco Rizzo, PhD Fellow

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I am interested in exploring the neurophysiological and psychological features of the human brain and how the manipulation of these characteristics affects the individual pain perception.

My research line aims to investigate - through the EEG - the cortical interaction occurring with the combination of illusory movements obtained with a mirror box and actual painful stimuli. The following objective is to probe whether a mirror box training in healthy subjects causes a neuroplasticity process in the sensory-motor cortex. The discoveries might be fundamental to develop therapies for patients with phantom limb pain.

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Felipe Rettore Andreis, PhD Fellow

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My main interest is extracting information from neural interfaces (i.e., multi-electrode cuffs) for an objective assessment of the activation of nociceptive responses.

Currently, I am using electrical stimulation in a large animal model to recruit different populations of fibres, reflecting noxious and non-noxious stimulation, while simultaneously investigating how those affect cortical interactions.

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Taha Janjua, PhD Fellow

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What I find intriguing is the ability to understand and in turn affect the enigma of complex brain mechanisms such as neuroplasticity and pain. I believe that research on brain functionality during pain processing can play a key role in future neuro-rehabilitation.

Currently, I am working on the assessment of intracortical information recorded from a large animal pain model that involves electrical peripheral nerve stimulation.

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Silvia Lo Vecchio, Assistant Professor

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My main  focus is to study both similarities and differences between itch and pain, in order to help improving chronic patient’s pharmacological  tretments and quality of life. Currently,  I am interested in developing new models of non-histaminergic itch that can help to clarify the itch patways and molecules involved. This should help the treatment of people affected by chronic itch deaseases that are resistant to  anti-histamine drugs.

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Giulia Erica Aliotta, PhD Fellow

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Chronic itch occurs under many diseases and severely affects the quality of life. Finding an effecting treatment is challenging, but the prospects of improving patient’s quality of life fascinates me.

My current work aims to design a new human model of non-histaminergic itch to better understand the mechanism of pruritus and to evaluate the activation of a family of receptors also involved in pain pathways.

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