Sat, 02 Dec 2023

WELLINGTON, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealand researcher will trial a novel brain stimulation technique for treating chronic low back pain, a leading cause of disability worldwide, the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) said on Tuesday.

The trial by University of Otago researcher Divya Adhia, based on her team's previous research, shows that abnormal activity between three cardinal networks of the brain is associated with worse pain, poor function, and quality of life and wellbeing in people with chronic low back pain.

Expanding on this, she has developed a technique using transcranial electrical stimulation to normalize the abnormal electrical connectivity between these brain networks.

"Chronic pain goes beyond the structural level. It is an experience influenced by biological, psychological, social and lifestyle factors. It is really complex and largely moderated by the brain," Adhia said, adding her research will test if a brain-based therapy could be a way to enhance pain modulation and produce meaningful clinical benefits.

Current treatments include pharmacological options that have had small effects on chronic pain, and they may come with side-effects in the long run, she said, adding a new, non-invasive, safer therapy is warranted.

While similar brain interventions have been explored, they have focused on stimulating singular brain regions and have been limited by technology.

However, Adhia's research is different, not only because it targets multiple regions of the brain, but utilizes advanced technology and a uniquely designed waveform, said a HRC statement.

Targeting "triple brain network activity" and exploring its effect on pain will create new knowledge and lead to potentially new solutions for people with chronic pain, Adhia said.

The trial will include piloting a home-based treatment option, which could create greater acceptance for the intervention by individuals and their family, as well as reduce healthcare access-related barriers and service-delivery costs, she said.

Adhia received a fellowship of nearly 600,000 NZ dollars (364,065 U.S. dollars) from the HRC, which awarded a total of more than 15 million NZ dollars (9.1 million dollars) to 76 recipients of the HRC's Career Development Awards on Tuesday to help launch research careers.

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