Funding awarded for research on pain and touch signalling in the spinal cord


Congratulations to Professor Brett Graham and Associate Professors Marc Russo and James Welsh on a successful NHMRC grant application. The NHMRC is Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council. Each year, they provide funding opportunities for the most exceptional research projects through highly competitive grant schemes.

The research proposal submitted by Prof Graham and his team (in association with the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute – HMRI) was one of 232 projects to be awarded funding out of a total 2,193 applications submitted to the 2022 NHMRC Ideas Grants scheme. This is an amazing achievement for the HMRI Brain Neuromodulation Research Program (chaired by Prof Graham), which achieved 3 NHMRC grants in total.

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A total of $738,587.00 has been awarded to fund the research project, which will look at how touch and pain signals pass through the spinal cord. This will help us to better understand chronic pain and improve treatment options, such as spinal cord stimulation. This research will inform spinal cord stimulator waveforms of the future and optimise existing ones by decoding their true mechanism of action (how they work to block pain signals).

“Exciting times ahead. I am very proud to be part of an amazing research team.”

A/Prof Russo

More about the research project:

Lead Investigator: Prof Brett Graham

Research Team Members: A/Prof James Welsh & A/Prof Marc Russo

Project Title: Network level decoding of touch and pain in the spinal cord.

Plain Description: Understanding how touch and pain signals pass through the spinal cord is critical in pain treatment, especially for touch-evoked pain. Our current understanding focuses on small circuits of spinal nerve cells, even though we know touch and pain activate much larger networks to produce signals that reach our brain. This project will decode network-level signalling of touch and pain in the spinal cord by studying activity in large nerve cell networks using imaging and complex systems analysis.


Brain Neuromodulation Research Program. Hunter Medical Research Institute. 2022.

$241 million invested to support outstanding Australian research. National Health and Medical Research Council. 2022, 14 December.

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