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Associate Professor James McAuley

TEAM LEADER PROFILE

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).

Projects Associate Professor James McAuley is currently involved with

CURRENT PROJECTS

MEMOIR – a clinical trial for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

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. 

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MEMOIR – a clinical trial for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Social Media for Low Back Pain

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.

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Social Media for Low Back Pain

The STOPain Study: Using brain-computer-interface intervention for people with neuropathic pain

Chronic pain is a significant problem worldwide affecting nearly 8 million Australians. Unfortunately, despite the availability of analgesics and other pain therapies, no treatment has been found that benefits the majority of individuals, and most of the available treatments have significant side effects or risks for serious adverse events, e.g. kidney failure.

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The STOPain Study: Using brain-computer-interface intervention for people with neuropathic pain

RESOLVE Trial for Chronic Low Back Pain

For people with long term back pain that is not getting better. We are testing two pain treatment programs that target the brain, for people with chronic low back pain.

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RESOLVE Trial for Chronic Low Back Pain

UPWaRD: Understanding persistent pain where it resides – in the brain.

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.

 

https://www.upwardbackpainstudy.com

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UPWaRD: Understanding persistent pain where it resides – in the brain.

Medicines for 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:

  1. Scoping review of paracetamol, NSAIDs and opioid analgesics for chronic low back pain (led by Matthew K Bagg). The objective of this study is to identify and describe the characteristics of available clinical trials of commonly used analgesic medicines for chronic low back pain. This information will inform the design and conduct of other studies in the research program.
  2. Paracetamol, NSAIDs and opioid analgesics for chronic low back pain: a network meta-analysis (led by Matthew K Bagg). The objective of this study is to produce information about the clinical effects of available analgesic medicines for chronic low back pain. This information will be available in a Cochrane review to assist clinical prescription of medicines. The protocol is published and available here.
  3. Prescribing practices of medicines for adults with low back pain: a systematic review (led by Michael Wewege). The objective of this study is to determine how different medicines are prescribed to adults with low back pain and how this differs across countries. The protocol for this study is being developed.
  4. Analgesic medicines for adults with low back pain: a network meta-analysis (led by Michael Wewege). The objective of this study is to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of a range of analgesic medicines for adults across different classifications of low back pain. The protocol for this study has been submitted for publication.
  5. Muscle relaxant medicines for low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis (led by Aidan Cashin and Thiago Folly). The objective of this study is to determine the effectiveness and tolerability of muscle relaxant medicines for adults with low back pain. The protocol is available here.
  6. Novel biologic medicines for low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis (led by Rodrigo Rizzo). The objective of this study is to determine the effectiveness and tolerability of novel biologic medicines for adults with low back pain. The protocol is available here.

Completed studies:

  1. Evaluation of the impact of unpublished data from clinical trial registries on the effects of medicines for low back pain (led by Matthew Bagg). The objective of this study was to evaluate whether there is a difference between clinical trial data that are published and those that are not published. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.
  2. Antidepressant medicines for low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis (led by Michael Ferraro). The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness and tolerability of antidepressant medicines for adults with low back pain. The findings have been submitted for publication. The protocol is available here.

Medicines for Back Pain – Publications:

  • Bagg MK, McLachlan AJ, Maher CG, Kamper SJ, Williams CM, Henschke N, Wand BM, Moseley GL, Hübscher M, O’Connell NE, van Tulder MW, Nikolakopoulou A, McAuley JH. (2018). Paracetamol, NSAIDS and opioid analgesics for chronic low back pain: a network meta-analysis [Protocol]. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 6. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD013045. PMCID: PMC6513465
  • Bagg MK, O’Hagan E, Zahara P, Wand BM, Hübscher M, Moseley GL, McAuley JH. (2020). Reviews may overestimate the effectiveness of medicines for back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. doi: 10.1016/ j.jclinepi.2019.12.006. PMID: 31816418

Medicines for Back Pain – Registrations of Study Protocols:

  • Folly T, Bagg MK, Wewege M, Ferraro MC, Schabrun S, Gustin SM, Day R, McAuley JH. (2019) UMbRELLA: Understanding efficacy and safety of Muscle RELaxant medicines for Low back pain – systematic Literature review and meta-Analysis (protocol).Open Science Framework, available at: https://osf.io/xuw5h
  • Rizzo RN, Bagg MK, Ferraro MC, Wewege M, Cashin A, Leake HB, O’Hagan E, Jones M, McAuley JH. (2020). Efficacy and safety of medicines targeting neurotrophic factors in the management of low back pain: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis. Open Science Framework, available at: https://osf.io/zax6d
  • Ferraro MC, Bagg MK, McAuley JH. (2019). RADICAL: Systematic Review of Anti-Depressant Medicines if Considered Analgesics for Low Back Pain (protocol). Open Science Framework, available at: https://osf.io/cedm3

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Medicines for Back Pain

AGReMA – A Guideline for Reporting Mediation Analyses

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.

AGReMA Publications

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

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AGReMA – A Guideline for Reporting Mediation Analyses

SLEEPain

For people with back pain who are having trouble with their sleep. We are testing whether a simple sleep tablet will help people reduce their pain and sleep better.

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SLEEPain

PREVENT

For people with a new low back pain episode. We are testing early intervention to reduce the risk of developing chronic low back pain.

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PREVENT

THE LATEST EVIDENCE FOR MANAGING LOW BACK PAIN WITH JAMES MCAULEY, HEALING PAIN PODCAST 2020

ONE-STOP-SHOP: SERVICE TREATS MENTAL ILLNESS, NEUROLOGICAL, AND ADDICTION AS ‘BRAIN DISORDERS’, THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 10 DECEMBER 2019

EP 38 – LOW BACK PAIN WITH A/PROF JAMES MCAULEY, NEURA PODCASTS

MAKING HEADWAY IN THE TREATMENT OF CHRONIC PAIN

PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN A CURE

PAIN FREE AND DRUG FREE, NEURA BLOG 25 JULY 2018

RESEARCHERS CHALLENGE GUIDELINES FOR TREATING ACUTE LOW BACK PAIN, NEURA 7 NOVEMBER 2018

BACK IN ACTION, 7 NEWS 7 NOVEMBER 2018

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JAMES MCAULEY ON NEW RESEARCH FOR ACUTE LOW BACK PAIN, NEURA 6 NOVEMBER 2018

LIVE Q&A ON CHRONIC PAIN WITH A/PROF JAMES MCAULEY AND DR SYLVIA GUSTIN, NEURA 31 JULY 2018

TWEETING INTO BACK PAIN AND REASSURING YOURSELF OUT OF IT, ABC RADIO 1 FEB 2016

NEURA TALKS ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JAMES MCAULEY – ACUTE LOW BACK PAIN 28TH MARCH 2018

THE ‘MYTHBUSTERS’ OF BACK PAIN BELIEVE THEY CAN TREAT IT – WITH WORDS, THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 23 DECEMBER 2018

A/PROF JAMES MCAULEY DISCUSSES CHRONIC PAIN, EASTSIDE FM DECEMBER 2017

WHEN PAIN PERSISTS, CATALYST 22 MARCH 2016

HYPNOSIS TRANSFORMING CHRONIC PAIN TREATMENT, NEURA 16 MAY 2018

‘NO PILLS, NO SURGERY’ – THE REVOLUTIONARY TREATMENT FOR BACK PAIN, CHANNEL 9 NEWS 17 NOVEMBER 2016

THE WORLD OF PAIN ON BEYOND THE LAB, ABC RADIO (RECORDING FROM 8:38 TO 24:55) 19 JULY 2014

RESEARCH TEAM