Can brain neurochemicals distinguish headache types and pain types?

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An opportunity exists for a PhD scholarship to investigate whether brain neurochemicals can distinguish between headache types and pain types. Work undertaken by our research team to date has demonstrated that biomarkers such as GABA and glutamate are different in migraine compared with controls, as well as brain neurochemicals being altered in psychological states such as posttraumatic stress disorder.  To date however, it is unknown whether these neurochemicals differ between conditions such as different headache types (eg migraine vs headache due to whiplash) and different pain types (eg pain after whiplash associated disorder and low back pain).


Dr Trudy Rebbeck, Professor Kathryn Refshauge

Research Location

Clinical and Rehabilitation Sciences Research Group

Program Type



The groundbreaking research using Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) has the potential to discover new mechanisms that underlie persistent pain, headach and psychological distress.
The aims of this study therefore will be to:

1. Determine whether brain neurochemicals, namely, glutamate and GABA, differ in people with migraine compared with those who persistent headache due to whiplash, and healthy controls;

2. Determine whether brain neurochemicals differ between pain conditions such as persistent pain after whiplash and persistent pain arising from the lower back and healthy controls; and
3. Determine whether brain neurochemicals differ between psychological states (post-traumatic stress without pain) and pain states.

Additional Information

Interested applicants should contact Trudy Rebbeck:

Amount: AUD$29,884 pa for 3 years

The PhD scholarship be based at the Faculty of Health Sciences, with affiliations with the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research; Kolling Institute and Sydney Medical School, the University of Sydney.  The PhD is funded by The Centre for Research Excellence in Recovery following Road Traffic Injury (CRERTI).  The successful candidate will work with an accomplished team based across 3 Universities including: 

  • University of Sydney: Dr Trudy Rebbeck, Prof Kathryn Refshauge, Maria Eliza Aguila, 
  • Griffith University: Prof Michele Sterling 
  • University of Queensland: Prof Graham Galloway 

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magnetic resonance spectroscopy, GABA, whiplash, road traffic injury, Brain Neurochemicals, Headache, Pain

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2179

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