Senior Research Scientist and Group Leader, NeuRA
Director, Centre for Pain IMPACT
Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW
Honorary Research Fellow, The George Institute for Global Health
+612 9399 1266
Dr James McAuley is a psychologist, Associate Professor in the School of Medical Sciences at UNSW and Senior Research Scientist at NeuRA.
James completed his PhD at Brunel University, London (2003). After immigrating to Australia in 2004 he took up a postdoc at the University of Sydney and then at the George Institute for Global Health. In 2010 he moved to NeuRA where he set up the Centre for Pain IMPACT (investigating mechanisms of pain to advance clinical translation). In 2017 James was appointed as Associate Professor to the Exercise Physiology department at UNSW.
James’ research combines experimental, clinical and translational methods to develop and test new interventions to manage low back pain. James has published >180 articles (Google Scholar, ORCID) and holds over >$10M in research funding. He is regularly invited to give talks at conferences and scientific meetings. James has supervised 18 PhD students and mentored 4 postdocs.
James is the chair of the back pain group of SPHERE MSK and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) for the Australian and New Zealand Musculoskeletal Clinical Trials Network (ANZMUSC). In 2015 James founded the NSW network for pain PhD students/ECRs (SPRiNG).
Researchers: A/Prof Sylvia Gustin, Dr Negin Hesam-Shariati, Dr Wei-Ju Chang, A/Prof James McAuley, Dr Andrew Booth, A/Prof Toby Newton-John, Prof Chin-Teng Lin, A/Prof Zina Trost
Chronic pain is a global health problem, affecting around one in five individuals in the general population. The understanding of the key role of functional brain alterations in the generation of chronic pain has led researchers to focus on pain treatments that target brain activity. Electroencephalographic (EEG) neurofeedback attempts to modulate the power of maladaptive EEG frequency powers to decrease chronic pain. Although several studies provide promising evidence, the effect of EEG neurofeedback on chronic pain is uncertain. This systematic review aims to synthesise the evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate the analgesic effect of EEG neurofeedback.
The search strategy will be performed on five electronic databases (Cochrane Central, MEDLINE, Embase, PsycInfo, and CINAHL) for published studies and on clinical trial registries for completed unpublished studies. We will include studies that used EEG neurofeedback as an intervention for people with chronic pain. Risk of bias tools will be used to assess methodological quality of the included studies. RCTs will be included if they have compared EEG neurofeedback with any other intervention or placebo control. The data from RCTs will be aggregated to perform a meta-analysis for quantitative synthesis. In addition, non-randomised studies will be included for a narrative synthesis. The data from non-randomised studies will be extracted and summarised in a descriptive table. The primary outcome measure is pain intensity assessed by self-report scales. Secondary outcome measures include depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and sleep quality measured by self-reported questionnaires. Further, we will investigate the non-randomised studies for additional outcomes addressing safety, feasibility, and resting-state EEG analysis.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a serious health condition, affecting approximately 20,000 people in Australia. It is characterised by severe burning, stinging and stabbing pain. People with CRPS are unable to use their painful limb and their ability to work or participate in normal social activities is severely restricted. Currently, there are no effective treatments for CRPS.
A vast body of research has demonstrated changes in brain processes in CRPS. The MEMOIR trial will investigate the effectiveness of two novel brain-directed treatments to reduce pain and improve function in people with CRPS.
MEMOIR consolidates the expertise of scientists and clinicians from NeuRA (A/Prof James McAuley, A/Prof Sylvia Gustin, Mr Michael Ferraro), the University of South Australia (Prof Lorimer Moseley), the University of Sydney (Prof Andrew McLachlan), the University of Notre Dame Australia Fremantle (Prof Benedict Wand, Prof Eric Visser), the University of Exeter (Prof Sallie Lamb), Brunel University London (Dr Neil O’Connell) and the University of Oxford (Dr Hopin Lee).
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the commencement of MEMOIR has been delayed. Recruitment for MEMOIR will commence in September 2020.
If you are interested in being contacted about our CRPS research, please leave your details below and we will be in touch once recruitment begins.
Social media is a potentially powerful tool to provide a message of education and reassurance to the general public about low back pain. This project will use social media to educate the general public about low back pain and promote self-management.
The project involves three stages. Firstly, we will conduct a content analysis to gain an insight into social media users’ perceptions and understanding about low back pain. This could determine whether social media could serve as an educational tool through which accurate information related to low back pain could be disseminated to the public.
Second, a recent Delphi survey of 150 low back pain researchers identified 30 key messages considered to be important for the general public to know about LBP. These statements provide evidence-based information on the diagnosis, prognosis and management of LBP and are intended to educate, reassure and promote self-management. We will investigate the attitude of the general public towards these messages.
Third, working in conjunction with a media company Y&R, we will design and test a social media campaign to encourage self-management for people with low back pain.
Persistent musculoskeletal pain is one of the most significant health issues in the developed world. Termed a ‘Western epidemic’, low back pain is the most common form of persistent musculoskeletal pain and a leading cause of suffering and disability. Despite the enormity of the problem, many current therapies target generic symptoms, not underlying mechanisms, with limited effect. In 2010, the Australian National Pain Summit concluded ‘the management of pain is shockingly inadequate’. This assessment is not surprising given that critical information on the biological changes that underpin persistent low back pain is lacking. The UPWaRD study is a 5-year NHMRC-funded trial that investigates the role of brain plasticity, along with biological changes in the spinal cord, hormonal changes, genetics and stress, in the development of persistent low back pain.
Medicines are the most common treatment for back pain. The aim of this program of research is to improve our understanding of the clinical effects of medicines.
Studies currently in progress:
Medicines for Back Pain – Publications:
Medicines for Back Pain – Registrations of Study Protocols:
There are a growing number of studies using mediation analysis to understand the mechanisms of health interventions and exposures. Recent work has shown that the reporting of these studies is heterogenous and incomplete. This problem stifles clinical application, reproducibility, and evidence synthesis. The development and implementation of A Guideline for Reporting Mediation Analyses (AGReMA) will improve the standardization, transparency, and completeness in the reporting of studies that use mediation analysis to understand the mechanisms of health interventions and exposures.
Cashin AG, McAuley JH, Lamb SE, Hopewell S, Kamper SJ, Williams CM, Henschke N, Lee H. (2020). Development of A Guideline for Reporting Mediation Analyses (AGReMA). BMC Med Res Methodol 20(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s12874-020-0915-5. PMID: 32013883
THIAGO FOLLY Research Assistant
ANIKA HAIGH Research Assistant
PAULINE ZAHARA Research Assistant
DR IAN SKINNER Postdoctoral Research Fellow