Our lab studies acute and chronic pain in children, and the transition in between. We aim to understand and harness the influence of cognitive-behavioral factors on children's pain trajectories using developmental frameworks.

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Tonsillectomy Study

We are collaborating with Ear, Nose, and Throat clinic surgeons at Alberta Children’s Hospital to examine how children think about post-surgical pain and how they talk about it with their parents. This research project will be the first to examine the socio-linguistic context (i.e., parent-child narratives about pain) of pain memory development in young children undergoing tonsillectomies. 

The long-term goal is to design a parent-led memory reframing intervention aimed at promoting positive pain memory development by teaching mothers and fathers more adaptive styles of reminiscing with their children following painful events. This study builds on a strong foundation of empirical and theoretical work previously published by Dr. Noel.

 

Pain And Mental Health in Youth (PATH Study)

Chronic pain and PTSD and anxiety have been shown to co-occur at extremely high rates in adults. Our pilot data provides compelling evidence that this co-occurrence also exists in adolescence and is linked to greater impairment in functioning. We will use reliable clinician-administered interviews to determine the prevalence of internalizing mental health disorders in pediatric populations with and without chronic pain.

Using a conceptual model of PTSD and pediatric chronic pain co-developed by Dr. Noel, we will use lab-based methods (e.g., eyegaze tracking, actigraphy) to examine modifiable mechanisms (e.g., memory and attention biases, sleep disruption) underlying this co-morbidity over time. We will also investigate neural activation patterns underlying co-morbid PTSD and chronic pain using fMRI.

Chronic pain tends to cluster within families: youth of parents who have chronic pain status are at higher risk of developing chronic pain. Parental mental health status have also been reported to influence the onset and maintenance of pediatric chronic pain. Therefore, we will recruit parents of youth with and without chronic pain to examine the role of parental pain status and mental health in pediatric chronic pain. This part of the research project has been directly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (CIHR SPOR).

Vi Riddell Pain Program Multi-wave Outcome Initiative

This program-wide evaluation includes all youth and parents seen in our pain programs at Alberta Children’s Hospital. Participants complete an assessment battery at multiple time points for up to three years. The unique feature of this project is that it also doubles as clinical information since clinicians can review responses and have it inform clinical care.

Vi Riddell Pain Program also hosts a one-of-a-kind Intensive Pain Rehabilitation Program (IPRP) for youth with chronic pain. The program's patients and their parents also fill out a multi-wave assessment battery. In addition to that, prior to the start of the program and at discharge, the participants are invited to undergo an fMRI. The aim of this project is to assess neurobiological changes in youth following the IPRP and to identify neurobiological mechanisms underlying those changes.