Chronic back pain and sensory-motor control: towards a model based diagnostic toolbox (Chronic back pain)

Basic data for this project

Type of project: Participation in BMBF-joint project
Duration: 01/08/2010 - 31/07/2013


Chronic back pain (CBP) represents a burden for patients and society alike. The lifetime risk of back pain is 80%, 10% of them chronic. About 85% of CBP patients are classified as non-specific, i.e. non-classifiable with the current diagnosis tools. Correlative studies reveal that reflexes tend to be delayed and suppressed, a tendency to develop fear of movements, as well as altered motor control. The latter may cause a mechanical instability. Main objective of the project “Chronic back pain” is to analyse how these changes occur and how they may cause CBP. For this a general framework to incorporate the complex multilevel interactions of the mechanisms that underlie CBP was developed. This framework involves the musculoskeletal system, spinal pattern generators, the cortical pain matrix, and the visuo-somato-sensory system. The interdisciplinary background of the consortium enables a comprehensive experimental validation of the framework, linked to a quantitative computational modeling approach. Using this wide perspective it is expected to provide a knowledge base to better understand the aetiology of CBP. New diagnostic tools may be developed, to provide a more specific therapy for CBP-patients in the future. One subproject of the project is called “Contributions of visuomotor interactions to chronic pain”. Chronic musculoskeletal pain shares with visual observation of biological movements the involvement of cortical motor and somatosensory networks. The first objective of this subproject is to determine how visual perception of body movements (and of body itself) is changed by chronic pain. The second level addresses the interaction between visual perception and afferent feedback at a cognitive level. Thirdly we plan to explore to what extent visual perception can influence spinal control mechanisms. The overall objective is to test the assumptions of our general framework and to develop new diagnostic tools and therapeutic alternatives.

Keywords: chronic back pain; stability; fMRI; biovision; model