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Relive: Tasha Stanton

I. Am. Stanton
I. Am. Stanton

Tasha Stanton – I Am Stanton! Adventures in Pain, Perception and Science

Tasha Stanton

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.

Key Points

  • 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 .

Research papers

“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.

Feeling stiffness in the back: a protective perceptual inference in chronic back pain

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Meet A/ Prof Tasha Stanton

If you’re interested in pain, you probably know Tasha’s work. If you weren’t living under a rock last year you’ll have seen that Tasha went viral with the ultimate take down after a man suggested that she “read Stanton’s work on the subject”. This gave rise to her legendary response “I. Am. Stanton.”

Tasha has joined us for a very special online and live Le Pub Home Brew session on 1 August 2020.  She took us through her adventures in pain, perception and science, explaining how the findings from carefully constructed research in the laboratory can inform and inspire studies that aim to relieve suffering and improve treatment for people living with persistent pain.

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.

In this live and interactive online event, Tasha took us through some of her outstanding and novel findings, including how the sound of a rusty gate can influence someone’s perception of how stiff their back is and how a video illusion of a person’s knee being squashed or elongated can alter their experience of pain.

Tasha has definitely accomplished A LOT in her career so far. A brief professional introduction:

I am a physiotherapist and a clinical scientist. I began my physiotherapy career at a rehabilitation centre for injured workers in Canada. This sparked an interest in chronic pain; I then completed a Master’s in Rehabilitation Science studying the spinal mechanics of common stabilisation exercises. I gained a highly competitive International Recruitment Scholarship to complete my PhD at the University of Sydney under Profs Chris Maher and Jane Latimer, world leaders in low back pain and epidemiology. I have since received two highly competitive postdoctoral fellowships (10% and 15% success rates) and moved into a world- leading clinical pain neuroscience group at UniSA, under the mentorship of Prof Lorimer Moseley. I now lead my own research group (1 post-doctoral fellow, 1 PhD, 1 Masters, 2 Honours students) evaluating perception, multisensory integration, cortical body representation, and pain.

Summary of Key Research Achievements:

I have received >$2.2m in competitive research funding and I have authored 53 peer-reviewed papers in high-quality pain and imaging journals. I have been first author or senior author on 40% of these papers (past 5 years). I have an h-index of 20 and my papers, the majority published since 2011, have >1400 citations. I have given Plenary or Keynote lectures, all costs covered, at >40 major international/national meetings. I have presented my research at 21 international and 34 national conferences in 14 countries. I have presented my research in specialised topical workshops at 10 conferences in 6 countries, chairing 3 of these. I have delivered 35 extramural lectures at the invitation of 12 universities and 9 hospitals in 4 countries. I am a Commissioning Editor for the BodyinMind Research Blog that has >65,000 visitors from 120 countries.