Georgina Lockwood-Taylor

Thesis Title: Exploring the Shared Mechanisms of Chronic Pain and Chronic Dizziness: A Co-Designed Somatosensory Hypervigilance Intervention

Abstract: Chronic pain and chronic dizziness are prevalent and debilitating conditions that are often regarded as distinct entities. However, an imbalance in integrating modes of exteroceptive somatosensory or interoceptive information has been proposed to underpin both conditions. In chronic pain and chronic dizziness patients, an attentional bias towards threatening information, such as situations believed to trigger pain or dizziness, and the inability to disengage attention from symptom-related sensations during low-threat scenarios has been found. Previous studies in chronic pain patients have tried to train attentional bias toward pain-related information but have been moderately unsuccessful. It has instead been postulated that training attentional flexibility towards sensory information is vital.

Partnering with a health technology start-up company, TrainPain, this project will investigate the ability to train attentional flexibility to somatosensory information in a gamified evoked context. The Somatosensory Attentional FlexibiliTY Training (SAFETY Training) will be piloted in adults with chronic pain and chronic dizziness in a two-part experimental study. The aims of the study are twofold: Phase 1 aims to establish the nature of somatosensory attentional flexibility bias in both clinical populations and Phase 2 aims to train attentional flexibility.

This interdisciplinary research approach strives to advance our understanding of the maintaining role somatosensory attentional flexibility plays in chronic pain and chronic dizziness. Furthermore, collaboration with a health technology start-up company underscores the practical implications of this research for improving patient outcomes by offering a promising clinical tool to train flexible somatosensory attending and integration.

First Supervisor: Dr. Lauren C. Heathcote

Pathway: 1: HPII

Cohort: 2023-24