Tasha Stanton – I Am Stanton! Adventures in Pain, Perception and Science
When Lorimer Moseley recommends someone by saying they are quite simply ‘an excellent person, great communicator and fantastic research leader’ as he did when he introduced us to Tasha Stanton, we knew we were in for quite a night!
A/Prof Tasha Stanton’s life and work in science has truly been an adventure, we don’t use that word without good reason! Tasha’s award-winning research is focussed on understanding the deep complexity of why people hurt and why, sometimes, pain doesn’t go away. In order to do this Tasha’s work has taken her to the frontiers of perception, using technology such as virtual and mediated reality to fundamentally alter peoples’ perception of their body and their experience of pain.
- A lot of our senses have homeostatic functions, their role is to try to keep balance within us and promote us to undertake different behaviours to help us retore balance. If you feel cold, the feeling of cold has this homeostatic function to make us seek warmth
- Sensory information; sound, vision, touch influence our perception and our bodily feelings like pain and stiffness.
- Stiffness protects us from movement that might be damaging or that we believe might be damaging.
- Sensory cues can change pain. When we manipulate sensory input, there can be a significant reduction in pain and stiffness. The sound of a creaky gate can increase stiffness. The more it is repeated the larger the effect. We also see the opposite, when the noise decreases the pain and stiffness reduces.
- If bodily feelings aren’t just a ‘read out’ of the peripheral information that’s coming in then we need to rethink what those bodily functions (stiffness, pain) are for.
- We have innate processes between vision and pain. Using illusion to change the size of body parts, you can manipulate pain and swelling.
- Not only are our bodily experiences shaped by sensory cues, but we are actually altering physiological regulation of the body.
- We have a dynamic system that adapts and updates based upon the available information, for that person, in that environment, in that society.
- Clinicians- are we adding safety or danger to our sessions? Many of our treatments are targeting fear.
And there are some keypoints for patients too:
- The assumption that bodily functions like pain and stiffness solely reflect the biological state of the tissues doesn’t hold up. Many people have enormous amounts of pain and no damage or people have scans which show a great deal of damage but virtually no pain.
- We have unique experiences of the world.
- Your beliefs shape what you see.
- Its key to approach each clinical encounter with the primary aim of listening…ask questions without assumptions. Do not make quick judgements.
- Many people underestimate how challenging it is to have pain that doesn’t go away.
- Visual cues in general can have large influence on what people experience. Scary scan pictures.
- We have a need for experimental lab research because we need to better understand how our treatments work or don’t work.
- We can use perceptual alterations to promote discussion about biological process that underlie our bodily feelings like pain
- New theories are needed to underlie and underpin new treatments. To make progress we have to do the background work to understand how treatment mechanisms work .
“Does feeling back stiffness actually reflect having a stiff back?”
This (free to access) paper by Tasha Stanton demonstrates what a superstar of the pain world she is.