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EP3 2016 Headliners – Giandomenico Iannetti

By Timothy Cocks Education for all 15 Oct 2015

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EP3 2016 is expanding the international flavour, adding another speaker and delivering the most diverse EP3 line up yet – combining neuroimmunology, psychology, sensory processing research, education psychology, conceptual change science, brains, bodies, space and clinical pain science.

This is the second in a series of posts highlighting the rock star line up at next years EP3 event. Today we shine the spotlight on Professor Giandomenico Iannetti:

In the lab

Giando runs the Iannetti Lab at University College London, a neuroscience research group focused on sensory neuroscience in humans:

“We investigate the neural processes leading to the perception of objects and events in the world around us. We have a particular interest in studying the nociceptive system and how its activation generates painful percepts. We are also interested in understanding the defensive behaviours triggered by dangerous sensory events happening around the body.”

To do this, the group use high powered “LASERs” and throw people off balconies, as is evident from the images they have shared on their website:

Laser stimulation of the hand. Source:


Lab members at entrance to UCL NPP dept. Source:

In the media

Like his fellow EP3 speakers, Giando is passionate not only about his lab’s work, but also sharing and disseminating it in a broad forum. Here, Giando is being interviewed for BBC TV discussing peripersonal space.


In the literature

Giando has hundreds of publications to his name and has over 6000 citations in the literature. Below is a small selection (with links to full papers), including some his most influential work.

From the neuromatrix to the pain matrix (and back).

“These responses [brain activity in response to experimental noxious stimuli] have been shown to originate from an extensive network of brain regions, which has been christened the Pain Matrix and is often considered to represent a unique cerebral signature for pain perception. As a consequence, the Pain Matrix is often used to understand the neural mechanisms of pain in health and disease.” 

An extensive review and critique of the notion of the ‘Pain Matrix’ – a term that found its way into the pain literature following Ron Melzack’s coining of the term “Neuromatrix’. The paper suggests that brains responses recorded via neuroimaging techniques such as EEG, MEG, fMRI and PET after the delivery of a noxious stimuli are not necessarily specific for pain and more likely reflect a function that is crucial for all sensory systems.

A multisensory investigation of the functional significance of the pain matrix

“We found that the fMRI responses triggered by nociceptive stimuli can be largely explained by a combination of (1) multimodal neural activities (i.e., activities elicited by all stimuli regardless of sensory modality) and (2) somatosensory-specific but not nociceptive-specific neural activities (i.e., activities elicited by both nociceptive and non-nociceptive somatosensory stimuli). The magnitude of multimodal activities correlated significantly with the perceived saliency of the stimulus. Taken together, these findings suggest that the largest part of the fMRI responses elicited by phasic nociceptive stimuli reflects non nociceptive specific cognitive processes.” 

A really clever piece of original research looking at stuff happening in the brain in response to a range of nociceptive and non-nocicpetive stimuli. There’s a theme developing here, that word saliency seems prominent…

The pain matrix reloaded: A salience detection system for the body

“This network, often referred to as the ‘‘pain matrix’’, is viewed as representing the activity by which the intensity and unpleasantness of the percept elicited by a nociceptive stimulus are represented. However, recent experiments have reported (i) that pain intensity can be dissociated from the magnitude of responses in the ‘‘pain matrix’’, (ii) that the responses in the ‘‘pain matrix’’ are strongly influenced by the context within which the nociceptive stimuli appear, and (iii) that non-nociceptive stimuli can elicit cortical responses with a spatial configuration similar to that of the ‘‘pain matrix’’. For these reasons, we propose an alternative view of the functional significance of this cortical network, in which it reflects a system involved in detecting, orienting attention towards, and reacting to the occurrence of salient sensory events.

…the salience detection system would represent a network by which we react to a wasp when viewing the wasp approaching the hand, but even before being stung by it.” 

Gets my vote for one of the best puns (here… just in case) in a scientific paper title, and fully develops the theme in the earlier two papers. Re-reading these papers again in light of recent reading of predictive processing theory, in which the brain is busy predicting sensory input and trying to ‘explain away’ prediction error (surprise), leads to some thoughts about a few ‘pinot noir’ questions I’ll have for Giando.

Spatial Sensory Organization and Body Representation in Pain Perception

We argue that pain perception involves some of the representational properties of exteroceptive senses, such as vision and touch. Pain, however, has the unique feature that the content of representation is the body itself, rather than any external object of perception. We end with some suggestions regarding how linking pain to body representation could shed light on clinical conditions, notably chronic pain.” (emphasis added)

This paper introduces a bit of philosophy with notions of pain being ‘about’ the body even when caused by external stimuli, unlike other external stimuli which are generally ‘about’ the world – some interesting reading. There are also links in this paper to the notions of DIMs and SIMs – The category ‘Things you see,smell, taste, touch and hear’ comes particularly to mind.

Secure your place now

Register and pay online here

Prefer to register with good ol’ fashion pen and paper? You can do that too – here.

Lodge your interest and be kept up to date (but remember, this won’t secure you a place, you need to pay to do that!) here.

One more thing…

Described as ‘probably the best little pain meeting in the world’PainAdelaide will be held on April 4, the day following EP3. PainAdelaide tickets won’t be publicly available for purchase until much later this year (and always sell out quickly) so this way you can be ahead of the field and lock in your place.

For an amazing four day experience we are pleased to be able to offer a special ‘pre-sale’ ticket for EP3 and PainAdelaide 2016 – a great deal for our overseas guests in particular!

Just select the EP3 and PainAdelaide Package in any of the payment methods above.


Looking forward to seeing you in gorgeous Glenelg in April 2016.

-Tim Cocks

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Click on the image above for further details and ticket purchasing options


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