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Validation of a new tool for pain phenotyping

Project Description

Pain experience is not a direct reflection of tissue damage, but is sensitive to the expectations individuals have prior to pain administration. There are important, clinically-relevant, individual differences in pain expectations, which influence the way individuals experience the same objective tissue damage, and the way they respond to pharmacological and psychological pain therapies.
Pain expectations encompass a stable, trait-like component, as well as more transient, state-like component that is sensitive to the information available to individuals about imminent pain. We have recently shown that a Bayesian model can characterise both the trait-like and the state-like components of pain expectations of healthy volunteers in a laboratory task, and extract unique parameters that describe individual differences in pain expectations (Hoskin et al., in revision). The pain task and the individual-level model have potential to serve as a diagnostic tool in pain clinics. The aim of this project is to establish the validity of that technique for eventual clinical use. The specific objectives are:
(1) To measure the reliability of individual difference indices the tool extracts across time and pain stimulation techniques.
(2) To measure the validity of the tool by correlating the individual differences indices it extracts with questionnaire-based measures of pain responses, mental health, and personality.
(3) To test the feasibility of using the tool in a patient group.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology or neuroscience.

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (View Website).

Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


Hoskin*, R., Berzuini*, C., El-Deredy, W., Sparks, A., Guo, H., & Talmi, D. (in revision). Sensitivity to Pain Expectations: A Bayesian Model of Individual Differences. Cognition. Available from:

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