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This project aims to explore how inflammation in newborn babies affects their future pain perception. It is a question relevant to many lives: 13-20% of infants suffer from suspected infections in UK postnatal wards, yet the consequences of early-life inflammation on human nociceptive circuitry are largely unknown. 

Studies in adults suggest that the activation of the immune system in response to a pathogen causes a decrease in pain thresholds and an increase in pain sensitivity, however less is known about the consequences of inflammation in newborn infants. Directly controlled, mechanistic studies are needed to understand the impact that infection may have on infant nociceptive responses.

This study seeks to characterise changes in brain activity that are evoked following a clinically required heel lance in a group of infants who receive antibiotics for suspected early onset infections. We want to know whether inflammation in term neonates is associated with alterations in pain sensitivity that outlasts the period of inflammation. 

We have published preliminary data in Nature Communications suggesting that inflammation is associated with increased nociceptive sensitivity in infants

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