Associate Professor James McAuley

TEAM LEADER PROFILE

Senior Research Scientist and Group Leader, NeuRA Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW
Honorary Research Fellow, The George Institute for Global Health

+612 9399 1266


Associate Professor James McAuley is a psychologist, A/Prof in the School of Medical Sciences & Senior Research Scientist at NeuRA.

James completed his PhD at Brunel University, London (2002) investigating psychological influences on chronic low back pain. After immigrating to Australia in 2004 he took up a post doc 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 Pain Research Education and Management (PREM) program. In 2017 James was appointed as A/Prof to the Exercise Physiology department at UNSW.

James has published 135 articles in general medical journals such as the Lancet, the BMJ, Annals of Internal Medicine and PLoS Medicine. He has an H-index of 43 and is the third most productive researcher in his field. He holds over $3.5M in research funding and has given invited presentations at 10 national conferences and 8 international scientific meetings in the last 5 years. James has supervised 18 PhD students and mentored 4 postdocs. In 2015 James founded the NSW network for pain PhD students/ECRs (SPRiNG). He is the current chair of the back pain group of STREAM Health and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) for the Australian and New Zealand Musculoskeletal Clinical Trials Network (ANZMUSC).

Projects Associate Professor James McAuley is currently involved with

CURRENT PROJECTS

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 a common treatment for back pain. The aim of this program of research is to improve our understanding of the clinical effects of medicines. Several studies constitute this program. 
 
Studies: 
1. A scoping review of analgesic medicines for chronic low back pain
The objective of this study is to identify the available clinical trials of medicines for chronic low back pain.  
This information will contribute to the methodology of Study 3. 
 
2. Evaluation of the impact of unpublished data from clinical trial registries on the effects of medicines for low back pain. 
The objective of this study is to evaluate whether there is a difference between clinical trial data that are published and those that are not published. 
This information will contribute to the methodology of Study 3. 
 
3. Paracetamol, NSAIDs and opioid analgesics for chronic low back pain: a network meta-analysis. 
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.

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Medicines for Back Pain

AGReMA Project

Developing a Guideline for Reporting Mediation Analyses (AGReMA) in randomized trials and observational studies.

Investigating causal mechanisms using mediation analysis is becoming increasingly common in psychology, public health, and social science. Despite increasing popularity, the accuracy and completeness when reporting mediation analyses are inconsistent. Inadequate and inaccurate reporting of research stifles replication, limits assessment of potential bias, complicates meta-analyses, and wastes resources. There is a pressing need to develop a reporting standard for mediation analyses. Up to now, there have been no registered initiatives on the “Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency of health Research” (EQUATOR) network that guide the reporting of mediation analyses. Our proposed project aims to improve the reporting quality of future mediation analyses by developing a reporting guideline through a program of established methodologies (Systematic Review, Delphi Survey, Consensus Meetings, and Guideline Dissemination). The development and implementation of this guideline will improve the transparency of research findings on causal mechanisms across multiple disciplines.

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AGReMA Project

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

RESOLVE – RECRUITING NOW

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 – RECRUITING NOW

RESEARCH TEAM

THIAGO FOLLY Research Assistant

ANIKA HAIGH Research Assistant

PAULINE ZAHARA Research Assistant

IAN SKINNER Postdoctoral Fellow : 9399 1049
: i.skinner@neura.edu.au

ADRIAN TRAEGER PhD Candidate

HOPIN LEE PhD Candidate

Markus Hubscher

DR MARKUS HUEBSCHER Postdoctoral Fellow

PUBLICATIONS

What does the grey matter decrease in the medial prefrontal cortex reflect in people with chronic pain?

Kang D, McAuley JH, Kassem MS, Gatt JM, Gustin SM

Alterations in the grey matter volume of several brain regions have been reported in people with chronic pain. The most consistent observation is a decrease in grey matter volume in the medial prefrontal cortex. These findings are important as the medial prefrontal cortex plays a critical role in emotional and cognitive processing in chronic pain. Although a logical cause of grey matter volume decrease may be neurodegeneration, this is not supported by the current evidence. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to evaluate the existing literature to unravel what the decrease in medial prefrontal cortex grey matter volume in people with chronic pain may represent on a biochemical and cellular level. Our model proposes new mechanisms in chronic pain pathophysiology responsible for mPFC grey matter loss as alternatives to neurodegeneration.

Reassurance for patients with non-specific conditions - a user's guide.

Traeger AC, O'Hagan ET, Cashin A, McAuley JH

Targeted reassurance, including enhanced, prognosis-specific education, could optimize reassurance and possibly prevent disabling symptoms.

Reassurance for patients with non-specific conditions - a user's guide.

Traeger AC, O'Hagan ET, Cashin A, McAuley JH

Targeted reassurance, including enhanced, prognosis-specific education, could optimize reassurance and possibly prevent disabling symptoms.

View all publications