Researchers at NUI Galway’s Centre for Pain Research win medals at the Irish Pain Society Meeting

Picture: Prof Brian McGuire, Dr Michelle Roche, Prof David Finn, Stephanie Bourke and Rachel Humphrey

Picture: Prof Brian McGuire, Dr Michelle Roche, Prof David Finn, Stephanie Bourke and Rachel Humphrey

The 21st Annual Scientific Meeting of the Irish Pain Society was held virtually on Saturday 16th October 2021. Clinical experts and scientists from Europe, the UK, Canada and the US spanning a range of professional disciplines including basic science, pain medicine, surgery, nursing, physiotherapy and psychology presented their work to an audience of scientists and health practitioners. Marking the Global Year about Back Pain, the meeting heard about challenges and opportunities in identifying and treating back pain, and new and innovative approaches in research and clinical practice. In addition, the latest pain research was presented from across Ireland with researchers from NUI Galway’s Centre for Pain Research receiving prestigious prizes, continuing an impressive track record of success in these competitions.

Rachel Humphrey, a final year PhD student supervised by Dr Michelle Roche and Prof David Finn, won the Irish Pain Research Network (IPRN) Medal for her short oral presentation entitled “Altered somatosensory and inflammatory pain responding in the VPA rat model of autism”.  Fodhla ni Chéileachair, supervised by Dr. Hannah Durand and Prof Brian McGuire, won the Clinical Research Medal for her presentation on “Coping with primary dysmenorrhea: A qualitative analysis of period pain management among students who menstruate”. Stephanie Bourke, an IRC-funded PhD student under the supervision of Prof David Finn and Prof Brian McGuire, was awarded the runner up prize in the Clinical Research category for her poster on “Alterations in plasma endocannabinoid levels in patients with neuropathic pain”. The research competition was judged by a panel of international experts who commended the high quality of the research. Co-Directors for the Centre for Pain Research, Dr Michelle Roche, Prof David Finn and Prof Brian McGuire, congratulated all the prize winners and stated that such achievements are a testament to the high quality pain research being carried out at NUI Galway.


Picture: Prof Brian McGuire, Dr Michelle Roche, Prof David Finn, Stephanie Bourke and Rachel Humphrey.

GNC Research Day 2021 – Call for Abstract Submissions

GNC Research Day 2021 – Call for Abstract Submissions

The call for abstract submission for the 2021 Galway Neuroscience Research Day, which will be held on Friday December 10th in NUIG is now open.

After such a long lockdown, we look forward to hearing about your research on what promises to be an exciting day of Neuroscience research. In addition to your research, a number of excellent established and early career researchers will give talks on the day – more details to follow.

Abstracts are now being accepted for short oral (5min) talk or poster presentations until Tuesday 23rd November.

Please use the template provided to complete your abstract, stating your preference for poster or short oral and submit to

GNC Research Day 2021 Abstract Template

Dr Karen Doyle is incoming President of Neuroscience Ireland

Dr Karen Doyle is incoming President of Neuroscience Ireland

Congratulations to the Galway Neuroscience Centre’s, Dr Karen Doyle, who was announced as incoming President of Neuroscience Ireland at their biennial research conference in September 2021.

Dr Doyle is a Senior Lecturer in Physiology and Principal Investigator at National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway. She is the founder leader of the Galway Neuroscience Centre (2004 – 2009), is a former Vice President of Neuroscience Ireland (2007–2009) and Vice Dean for Graduate Studies in the College of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, NUI Galway (2011–2015). Dr Doyle is a member of The Physiological Society, Neuroscience Ireland, British Neuroscience Association, European Stroke Organisation and World Stroke Organisation and is a member of the Editorial Board of Physiology News and PlosOne. Dr Doyle is a previous recipient of the Presidents Award for Teaching Excellence in NUI Galway (2015) and winner of a National Teaching Experts Award, from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2015). 

Dr Doyle’s research involves studying neurovascular stress, the causes of neuronal loss and investigating novel strategies to protect brain tissue from damage. Her focus is on understanding the pathophysiology of occlusive stroke, the characteristics of human blood clots that cause occlusive strokes and also the effect of cerebral hypoperfusion and reperfusion strategy on the survival of brain tissue. 

We wish Karen the very best in this new role!

Listen: The first Galway Neuroscience Podcast!

Listen: The first Galway Neuroscience Podcast!

The Galway Neuroscience Podcast is a series of podcasts developed and hosted by the students of the NUIG Masters in Clinical Neuroscience program. The aim of this podcast is to communicate the latest neuroscience research and education to both students and lay audiences who may be interested in the brain and nervous system and the field of neuroscience as a whole.

In our first episode, Emma and Michael discuss an interesting article about how parasites infect the brain. Our guest speaker, Dr. Derek Morris talks to us about the development of the Galway Neuroscience Centre over the last number of years and the direction of the research in NUI Galway going forward. Nathan and Ellie answer some brain-related questions submitted to us by secondary school students from around the country.

Listen here.

GNC researchers shine a light on chronic pain

GNC researchers shine a light on chronic pain

A recent study from researchers at the Galway Neuroscience Centre and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, explores the use of optogenetics as a method to relieve chronic pain. Optogenetics uses genetically-encoded proteins that change position and shape in the presence of light to turn brain cells on or off.

Pain is comprised of both sensory (physical intensity) and affective (emotional distress) components. A part of the brain involved in the emotional component of pain is called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).

Dr Sarah Jarrin (pictured), CÚRAM, NUI Galway and first author of the paper, said: “There is significant overlap in the neural circuitry of pain and anxiety in our brains. Sensory pain is our body’s natural alarm system, it is an important mechanism that alerts us to injury and danger. So rather than turning off that alarm system, we are targeting the distress component of pain, a promising target for chronic pain relief that is not addressed by current treatments.

“The technique of optogenetics is opening up lots of possibilities for further neuroscience research. With the use of light-activated proteins called opsins, optogenetics allows us to switch on or off a selective population of neurons that control this affective component of pain.”

The study, funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), focused on the two components of pain (physical and emotional), the distinct roles they play in the pain experience, and how they can often influence one another.

Chronic pain and anxiety frequently go hand in hand. People with chronic pain are also more likely to have anxiety and depression than the general population. The research looked specifically at the role of glutamatergic neurons of the ACC (glutamatergic neurons release the chemical transmitter glutamate, responsible for signalling between nerve cells) and changes in a protein marker of neuronal activity, known as c-Fos, in the ACC.

The study was able to show that when the glutamatergic neurons in the ACC were silenced, it is possible to abolish the aversion to pain without affecting the sensory component of pain. The study also showed that optogenetic activation of glutamatergic neurons of the ACC has a differential effect in males and females in terms of pain response.

Dr Jarrin added: “The inclusion of both sexes in pain studies is critical, because of differences in pain that have been observed between the sexes. Little is known about differences in the regulation of the physical and emotional components of pain in the male and female brain. Studies have found differences in the functional connectivity between the ACC and other brain regions of important regulating pain in males and females, which may account for differences in the effect of optogenetic treatment.”

Being able to target the emotional component of pain specifically could be therapeutically beneficial for patients with chronic pain, however further research to better understand the neural circuitry is required to develop these improved treatments.

Professor David Finn, Co-Director of NUI Galway’s Centre for Pain Research and principal investigator on the published study, said: “We are excited to publish these interesting data which advance our understanding of how the brain regulates pain, and how this may differ between males and females.”

The study was carried out as part of Dr Sarah Jarrin’s PhD project, jointly supervised by Dr David Finn, Dr Michelle Roche and Dr Abhay Pandit at NUI Galway.

The full paper can be accessed here: