I completed my PhD in 2015 in Cognitive Neuropsychology, during which I investigated the early cortical sensory gating using electroencephalography (EEG). I have since moved to the department of Neuroscience, Physiology, and Pharmacology at University College London as a postdoctoral research scientist in Professor Maria Fitzgerald’s group. I also hold an honorary contract with University College London Hospitals.
I continue to use EEG and techniques such as near infra-red spectroscopy to explore the development of pain processing in the human neonate. I have a particular interest in the factors that can impact upon either the acute pain response or long term changes in their pain perception. My recent work, published in Current Biology, looked at the effect of ongoing stress levels on the behavioural and brain responses to a clinically required blood test. To do this, I simultaneously measured the infants’ brainwaves using EEG, behavioural and physiological pain responses, salivary cortisol and heart rate variability. We found that in babies who are stressed, their brain response is augmented but this is not matched by a similar increase in their behaviour. This provides strong evidence that in stressed hospitalised babies, behavioural responses to a painful procedure are alone, a poor reflection of their pain. This is a noteworthy finding, which is of potential importance to both clinicians and researchers. This work has received national and international media interest, with articles appearing in The Times, The Daily Mail, as well as numerous online platforms such as ScienceDaily.