Dr. Mathieu Roy
2015 IASP Early Career Research Grant Winner
Institution: PERFORM Center, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Project: "No pain, no gain: a neuroimaging investigation of the cerebral mechanisms underlying making decisions between pain avoidance and reward seeking"
The proposed project will aim at answering two very important questions pertaining to pain’s motivational function: 1) How does the brain decide between avoiding pain or pursuing rewards, and 2) What causes the maladaptive auto-maintenance of avoidance behavior? In order to answer these questions, participants will have to perform a sequential decision-making task combining painful thermal stimulations and monetary rewards. The task will be designed so as to mimic situations in which the onset of a painful condition leads to the suspension of rewarding activities. Moreover, in the last phase of the task, highly rewarding actions will stop being associated with high pain in order to study the auto-maintenance of avoidance behavior. The research project will be divided into a behavioral study (n = 80), aiming at identifying the personal factors influencing pain avoidance, reward-seeking, and exploratory behavior, and a neuroimaging study aiming at identifying the cerebral mechanisms underlying these pain-related behaviors. Together, these two studies should significantly increase our understanding of the way psychological and neurophysiological factors combine to produce maladaptive pain avoidance behavior.