Center for Neuroplasticity and Pain

Ph.D Defense By Maria Galve Villa

Maria Galve Villa will defend her Ph.D. thesis “Assessment of spatiotemporal changes of pain and sensory perceptions using digital health technology” On Friday 4 December 2020 at 13:00.

Last modified: 30.11.2020


13.00 Opening by the Moderator Shellie A Boudreau
13.05 PhD lecture by Maria Galve Villa 
13.50 Break
14.00 Questions and comments from the Committee
          Questions and comments from the audience at the Moderator’s discretion
16.00 Conclusion of the session by the Moderator


The Faculty Council has appointed the following adjudication committee to evaluate the thesis and the associated lecture: 


Professor Bo Christer Bertilson, Karolinska University, Sweden

Professor Nanna Brix Finderup, Aarhus University, Denmark

Associate Professor Kristian Kjær Petersen, Aalborg University, Denmark

Associate Professor Shellie A Boudreau, Aalborg University, Denmark


A clinician’s assessment of pain conditions relies on a patient’s self-reported measures of pain and discomfort. The patient’s pain memory recall plays an important role as the onset of pain occurs before a consultation. However, there are known factors that influence the accuracy of the pain memory recall. Improving the accuracy of self-reported measures may result in more efficient pain management.

Momentary assessment of pain can mitigate recall bias and prove advantageous towards the management of pain. The development of digital health technologies can acquire self-reported measures of pain repeatedly over time, remotely using personal digital devices.

The aim of this PhD project was to assess spatiotemporal changes of self-reported pain intensity and distribution (extent and location) in experimental and clinical pain, using state-of-the-art digital pain mapping solutions.

This PhD project utilized two different models to induce pain and discomfort in healthy participants, as well as in patients with musculoskeletal spinally referred pain. A well-established experimental pain model was used to induce transient acute musculoskeletal low-back pain, and aimed to assess dose-response differences in evoked intensity and extent over time. A second model induced experimental discomfort and aimed to explore changes in perception. The objectives of this PhD were to (1) acquire and quantify changes of momentary pain and discomfort intensity and distribution over time, and (2) to assess the advantages, limitations, and barriers of use of the pain mapping technology.

The first study demonstrated and characterized dose-response differences in saline-evoked spatiotemporal pain intensity and distribution over time, supporting the relevance of repeated momentary pain assessment. The second study revealed previously unseen fluctuations in pain intensity and extent over a prolonged period, in patients with spinally referred pain. Additionally, results revealed patients’ characteristics and barriers of use that influenced reporting compliance. Finally, the third study explored the use of modifiable animations to assist with the quantification of real-time changes in bodily sensations.

In conclusion, the current PhD thesis provides evidence of spatiotemporal changes of pain and discomfort and unveils novel pain metrics that may support the assessment of pain. This contributes to our understanding of the patients’ pain experience, and warrants the use of digital pain mapping in future experimental and clinical pain research.