Karin Jensen´s research group

Research Area

What happens in the brain when we feel pain?

We perform studies that revolve around brain mechanisms involved in pain control. Our team uses laboratory pain testing and brain scans in order to study the neural correlates of pain, both in healthy volunteers and patients suffering from long-term pain. We also study the mechanisms underlying placebo effects.

Ongoing research projects

PrePain – To predict and prevent pain

In this prospective study among healthy individuals, we aim to find baseline factors that predict development of long-term pain later in life. We will pair brain images and genetic information with data from Sweden’s unique health registries. The combination of brain data, genetics and registry based research allows us to look for factors predicting the development of chronic pain.

Contact Person: Granit Kastrati

The Pain Matrix Revisited

The set of brain regions often associated with pain is sometimes referred to as the pain matrix. Yet, it is not certain whether the pain matrix is uniquely related to pain or whether it serves other functions. In this project, we aim to utilize novel methods for modeling the brain in terms of temporal network theory. This approach allows us to learn about the set of brain regions involved in generating and maintaining the subjective experience of pain.

Contact Person: Granit Kastrati

Long Term Pain

The goal is to characterize the brain’s pain regulatory system in individuals with Fibromyalgia pain by using experimenal pain tests during fMRI scanning. We will contrast the results from those suffering from chronic pain with individuals who are exposed to pain via self-injury, and healthy controls. The aim is to gain deepened knowledge of the mechanisms that contribute to development of chronic pain, and ultimately, to improve the treatments.

Contact Person: Jens Fust or Maria Lalouni

Placebo Effects

Placebo responses are powerful examples of how psychological processes can affect disease symptoms through positive expectations. Yet, little is known about treatment expectations in patients with limited cognitive abilities, such as dementia. The goal of this research project is to use psychophysical testing and functional neuroimaging to investigate expectancy mechanisms in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Contact Person: Moa Pontén

Self Injury

The purpose of this project is to provide a comprehensive characterization of the pain regulatory system in individuals who engage in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). To reach that purpose, we intend to employ and further develop novel network-based analysis methods of brain imaging data. We will use structured pain experiments to assess different aspects of the pain regulatory system and study their neuronal correlates. The aim is to understand of the role of pain in NSSI and to contribute to the development of new treatment strategies and preventions for those who suffer from self-injury.

Contact Person: Jens Fust or Maria Lalouni

Selected Publications

Certainty of genuine treatment increases drug responses among intellectually disabled patients.
Jensen KB, Kirsch I, Pontén M, Rosén A, Yang K, Gollub RL, et al
Neurology 2017 May;88(20):1912-1918

Classical conditioning of analgesic and hyperalgesic pain responses without conscious awareness.
Jensen K, Kirsch I, Odmalm S, Kaptchuk TJ, Ingvar M
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Jun;112(25):7863-7

A Neural Mechanism for Nonconscious Activation of Conditioned Placebo and Nocebo Responses.
Jensen KB, Kaptchuk TJ, Chen X, Kirsch I, Ingvar M, Gollub RL, et al
Cereb Cortex 2015 Oct;25(10):3903-10

Sharing pain and relief: neural correlates of physicians during treatment of patients.
Jensen KB, Petrovic P, Kerr CE, Kirsch I, Raicek J, Cheetham A, et al
Mol Psychiatry 2014 Mar;19(3):392-8

Nonconscious activation of placebo and nocebo pain responses.
Jensen KB, Kaptchuk TJ, Kirsch I, Raicek J, Lindstrom KM, Berna C, et al
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012 Sep;109(39):15959-64

Group members