Information for Students

  • Undergratuate Students
  • Undergratuate students

    Students Completing Research Requirements at the Centre for Research on Pain, Disability and Social Intergration

    On average, three or four undergraduate students are accepted each year.  Students will typically be enrolled in independent research courses (e.g., PSY395, PSY494) or will be enrolled in the honours program.  Students can also gain research experience by volunteering at the Centre.  Students who are interested in volunteering are asked to make a commitment of a specific number of hours (determined by the student) each week so that a project can be tailored to the student’s availability.

    The Centre operates two research sites; one located in the Stewart Biological Sciences Building at McGill University, and one located at the Constance Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre in Montreal West.  Students wishing to complete their research requirements at the Centre must be willing to work at either site.

    Student research projects are developed out of the main lines of research in which the Centre is currently involved.  These are briefly described below.

    1. The Psychology of Pain Experience and Pain Expression
    2. Research over the past few years has shown convincingly that cognitive variables (e.g., catastrophic thinking, expectancies) and affective variables (e.g., depression, anxiety) have a significant impact on pain experience.  Research from our laboratory has shown that cognitive and affective variables can also influence pain expression. It is becoming increasingly clear that expressive pain behaviours are a major determinant of pain-related disability.  As such, effective management of pain behaviour will be necessary in order to develop more effective interventions for pain-related disability.

      In this line of research, individuals with persistent pain conditions are filmed while performing a physically demanding task.  Subsequently, the video records are coded for pain behaviour.  Of interest are the psychological variables that influence the expression of pain behaviour, and the types of interventions that might be useful in reducing pain behaviour.

      This line of research is conducted either with individuals who suffer from a clinical pain condition, or with healthy individuals in whom pain has been experimentally induced.  Students who are interested in working with individuals with clinical pain conditions need to have at least working knowledge of French since most individuals seen in clinical settings will be French speaking.  Students who are interested in projects involving experimental pain induction do not need to have working knowledge of French since most participants are recruited from the McGill student community.

      Students who complete their research requirements in this line of research, might be involved in various aspects of data collection, or they may be involved in the analysis of data that has already been collected.

      Students who are interested in this line of research should consult the following publications to familiarize themselves with relevant concepts and findings.

      Sullivan, M.J.L. (2008) Toward a biopsychomotor conceptualisation of pain. Clinical Journal of Pain, 24: 281 - 290. Print PDF

      Thibault, P., Loisel, P., Durand, M.J., Sullivan, M.J.L. (2008). Psychological predictors of pain expression and activity intolerance in chronic pain patients. Pain, 139: 47 – 54. Print PDF

      Sullivan, M.J.L., Stanish, W.D., Thibault, P., Kozey, J., Catchlove, R., Adams, H., Savard, A. (2006).  The influence of communication goals and physical demands on different dimensions of pain behavior. Pain, 125: 270 - 277. Print PDF    


    3. Perceiving Pain in Others
    4. Pain is by definition a subjective experience.  In everyday life, situations arise where observers must infer others’ pain experience.  A parent might infer the pain experience of a child in order to discern the child’s need for comfort or medical assistance.  A spouse might infer a partner’s pain experience in order to determine the partner’s assistance or support needs.  A physician might infer a patient’s pain in order to prescribe appropriate intervention.

      Only recently has the perception of others’ pain become the subject of systematic enquiry.  Research findings to date suggest that on average, observers’ tend to underestimate others’ pain.  Interestingly, health professionals underestimate others’ pain more than observers who are not clinically trained.  Research has also shown that characteristics of the observer influence how much pain will be perceived in others.  For example, observers who have high levels of catastrophic thinking or empathy perceive more pain in others (although they are not necessarily more accurate).

      The science of perceiving others pain is still in its infancy.  Many questions remain about the factors that influence pain inferences.  Little is known about the information that observer’s use to make their inferences.  Does familiarity increase or decrease accuracy of pain inferences?  Do partner’s feel more supported in relationships when their spouse accurately perceives their pain?

      Students who are interested in this line of research should consult the following papers.

      Green A, Tripp DA, Sullivan M.J.L., Davidson M. (2009). The relation between empathy and estimates of others’ pain. Pain Medicine, 10: 381 - 392. Print PDF

      Martel, M.O., Thibault, P., Roy, S., Catchlove, R., Sullivan, M.J.L. (2008). Contextual determinants of pain judgments. Pain, 139: 562 - 568. Print PDF

      Sullivan, M.J.L., Martel, M.O., Tripp, D., Savard, A., Crombez, G. (2006). Catastrophic thinking and heightened perception of pain in others.  Pain, 123: 37 - 44. Print PDF


    5. Temporal Summation of Pain
    6. When exposed to repeated low intensity painful stimuli, some individuals show habituation (i.e., decrease in the intensity of pain).  Other individuals experience increases in pain intensity over repeated stimulation.  The latter phenomenon has been termed ‘temporal summation of pain’ and is considered to be a risk factor for the development of chronic pain.

      At our Centre, we have recently provided evidence for an activity-related temporal summation phenomenon.  Research participants were asked to left a series of weights and to rate their pain after each lift.  For some individuals with chronic pain, pain intensity ratings increased over time in spite of constant physical demands.  A recent study has shown that the same phenomenon can be generated in healthy individuals who have undergone experimental pain induction.

      In a series of ongoing studies, we are interested in exploring the psychological and neurophysiological factors that underlie the temporal summation effect.  Questions of interest concern the degree to which mechanisms responsible for the effect operate at a peripheral or central level.  It will also be of interest to examine the psychological factors that might augment or attenuate the temporal summation effect.  In addition, we are interested in examining the degree to which temporal summation impacts on disability associated with pain.

      Students who are interested in this line of research should consult the following papers.

      Sullivan, M.J.L., Thibault, P., Androkonyte, J., Butler, H., Catchlove, R., Lariviere, C. (2009). Psychological influences on repetition induced summation of activity-related pain in patients with musculoskeletal pain.  Pain, 141: 70 - 78. Print PDF

      Sullivan, M.J.L. (2008) Toward a biopsychomotor conceptualisation of pain. Clinical Journal of Pain, 24: 281 - 290. Print PDF


    7. Determinants of Health Decline While Waiting for Joint Replacement Surgery.
    8. Waitlists are an unfortunate but very real aspect of our health care system.  For individuals waiting for joint replacement surgery, the wait period can be characterized by a long period of suffering and disability.  Some individuals will wait as long as four years for their surgery.  We have recently launched a line of research examining risk factors for health decline during the waitlist period.  Specifically, we are interested in identifying the psychological factors that might predispose individuals to more rapid health decline during the waitlist period.  If certain individuals are identified as being at risk, it might be possible to develop intervention approaches that might minimize health decline during the waitlist period.  This line of research also addresses the determinants of recovery following joint replacement surgery.

      Students interested in this line of research should consult the following papers.

      Sullivan, M.J.L., Tanzer, M., Stanish, W.D., Fallaha, M., Keefe, F.J., Simmonds, M., Dunbar, M. (2009). Psychological determinants of problematic outcomes following total knee arthroplasty. Pain, 143: 123 - 129. Print PDF

      Forsythe, M.E., Dunbar, M.J., Hennigar, A.W., Sullivan, M.J.L. & Gross, M.  (2008). Prospective
      relation between catastrophizing and residual pain following knee arthroplasty: Two-year follow-up.  Pain Research and Management, 13: 335-341. Print PDF


    9. The Role of Perceptions of Injustice in Reactions and Recovery from Pain-Related Health Conditions
    10. The post-injury life experience of individuals who have sustained debilitating musculoskeletal injuries might be one characterized by significant losses. These might include loss of function, loss of employment, loss of enjoyment, loss of financial security, and in severe cases, loss of independence. Similar losses might be experienced by individuals who develop pain-related conditions that are not associated with injury, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.  If losses are perceived as undeserved, it is possible that individuals will experience their life situation as unjust.

      Surprisingly, the role of perceived injustice on reactions to pain-related health conditions has not drawn significant research attention.  Our recent research suggests that perceptions of injustice consequent to musculoskeletal injury might be one of the best psychological predictors of prolonged disability.  However, the processes by which perceived injustice contributes to prolonged disability are currently unknown.  It is also unclear how perceptions of injustice develop and whether individuals differ in the susceptibility to experience stressful situations as unjust.

      Students interested in this line of research should consult the following papers.

      Sullivan, M.J.L., Adams, H., Horan, S., Mahar, D., Boland, D., Gross, R.  (2008). The role of perceived injustice in the experience of chronic pain and disability: Scale development and validation. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 18: 249-61. Print PDF

       Sullivan, M.J.L., Main, C.J. (2007). Service, advocacy and adjudication: Balancing the ethical challenges of multiple stakeholder agendas in the rehabilitation of chronic pain.  Disability and Rehabilitation, 29: 1596 - 1603. Print PDF



  • Graduate Students
  • Graduate students

    Applications for Financial Assistance to Attend Scientific Conferences

    As much as possible, the Centre aims to assist graduate students in covering costs associated with conference travel.  However, the financial resources of the Centre vary from year, as does the number of students requesting financial assistance.  As such, student requests for assistance must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  At times, it might be possible to cover entirely the cost of attending a conference, at other times, it will only be possible to provide partial support.

    As a general rule, students will receive assistance for conferences at which they are presenting.  It will typically not be possible to subsidize conference travel when the student plans to attend but not present at a conference (unless a strong case can be made for relevance of the conference to the student’s advancement in research).

    Students who wish to apply for financial assistance are asked to complete the attached form.  Only costs covered by granting agencies can be included in the submission.  Students are asked to comply with McGill University guidelines for per diem costs.  Please note that granting agencies do not reimburse for alcohol.  Incidentals such as internet or telephone charges are not reimbursable.

    It is important to note that all receipts and boarding passes must be submitted upon return from travel.  Students will be personally responsible for costs on items for which receipts are not submitted. 

    Request for Financial Assistance

© Copyright Frederic Chappe, 2019. All rights reserved.