We were thrilled this past week to welcome rising superstar Dr. Siobhan Schabrun from the University of Western Sydney to the PIRL lab and the Western University community. This was one part of an IASP-funded travel grant program intended to foster international collaboration between pain researchers. Siobhan brought her considerable experience in mapping the motor cortex of key body regions using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-based methods. This elegant and largely pain-free technique provides superb spacial and temporal resolution for exploring things such as the size of motor body maps and cortical plastic change that is especially useful for understanding the mechanisms of acute-to-chronic or painful-to-not-painful transitions. We won't give away too many of her methods, but a new experimental pain model using a key signalling model that she's working on is also especially attractive for understanding pain mechanisms.
The visit included time spent with members of Western's world-class Brain and Mind Institute, the Robarts Research Institute, and members of the PIRL lab itself. Siobhan was also included in 3 days worth of workshops, the first being the Advances in Neck and Spinal Pain Workshop at which she delivered 2 hours worth of discussion about advances in understanding cortical mechanisms of chronic pain, including some very exciting new information on alternative methods to affect brain plasticity by rehabilitation professionals (videos will be coming soon, watch this site). The second workshop was a 2-day invitation-only interdisciplinary priority- and consensus-generating workshop in trauma-related MSK pain and disability. Watch this space for more information about that highly successful workshop.
And of course no visit to Canada would be complete without enjoying some traditional Canadian stereotypes. Our extended cold March gave Siobhan the first chance to see snow falling from the sky (we're glad at least someone was excited about that), to watch deer and squirrels forage near her hotel, enjoy Canada's finest cuisine including poutine, and have pancakes with maple syrup fresh from the tree. Only thing we didn't do was get her into a hockey fight, but guess we need to save something for next time.
We were thrilled to have Siobhan share her considerable expertise with us here at Western, and already some exciting new research directions have come to light. The reciprocal will come when Dave visits U Western Sydney in July.