Dr Sam Hughes

Dr Sam Hughes

Lecturer in Human Neuroscience

School of Psychology (Faculty of Health)



Lecturer in Human Neuroscience

Head of the Pain Modulation Lab at the Brain Research and Imaging Centre (BRIC)


  • BSc Pharmacology (1st class): University College London
  • MRC funded 4 year PhD Studentship in Systems Neuroscience (pain research): University of Bristol

During my PhD I worked in the laboratories of Prof Bridget Lumb and Prof Tony Pickering to investigate changes in descending noradrenergic control during the development of neuropathic pain. I then completed two postdoctoral positions with Dr Paul Strutton in the musculoskeletal (MSK) Lab at Imperial College London, where I began to develop an independent line of research into the use of neurotechnology (e.g. neuromodulation and immersive virtual reality) to study the descending control of pain in human pain models. I then secured a research fellowship in Dr Matthew Howard's Lab at Kings College London to further explore the use of neuromodulation techniques in human pain models. In 2020 I joined the University of Plymouth as a Lecturer and I run the Pain Modulation Lab at the Brain Research and Imaging Centre (BRIC).


Faculty of Biomedical Sciences Commendation; awarded for PhD thesis; University of Bristol.

The Professor Anthony Mellows Medal; awarded for Research Fellowship proposal; Kings College London

Nominated for a Student Academic Choice Award (SACA); teaching and supervision excellence; Imperial College London

Nominated for a Student and Staff Teaching and Representation (SSTAR) award; personal tutor of the year; University of Plymouth

Professional membership

Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA)

Roles on external bodies

Editorial board member for Frontiers in Pain Research (neuropathic pain section)



Teaching interests

I teach on the following undergraduate modules:

PSYC002: The Psychology of Everyday Experience
PSYC418: Applying Psychology
PSYC603: Current Topics in Psychology 3
PSYC605: Research Project

I teach on the following postgraduate modules: 

PSYC756: Communicating psychological research
PSYC775: Foundation of Neuroimaging and Neuromodulation
PSYC784: Advanced Practice in Neuroimaging and Neurostimulation
PYSC785: Neuroscience Project

I am Module Lead for PSYC775 on the MSc Human Neuroscience degree programme. 


Research interests

Research in my lab involves investigating cortical influences over endogenous pain modulation systems and translating these findings into novel mechanism-driven therapeutics for chronic pain patients. Through collaborations with experts in a range of disciplines, I use a combination of psychophysics, neuroimaging and neurotechnology alongside human surrogate pain models with a view to harness activity within discrete cortically-driven analgesic pathways.

For more information see the Pain Modulation Lab page at BRIC.


  • Dr Matt Howard (Kings College London)
  • Dr Kirsty Bannister (Kings College London)
  • Professor Ben Seymour (Oxford)
  • Professor Valerie Sparkes (Cardiff)
  • Professor Helen Dawes (Exeter)
  • Dr Aleksandra Vuckovic (Glasgow)
  • Dr Paul Strutton (Imperial College London)
  • Dr Nir Grossman (Imperial College London)
  • Dr Ines Violante (University of Surrey)
  • Prof Thomas Graven-Nielsen (Aalborg University, Denmark)

Grants & contracts

Active grants:

2022 – 2025: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Neurotechnology for Chronic Pain. £1,161,841.47 (Co-Investigator).

2022 – 2024: Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award. Virtually painless? Steps towards mechanism-driven use of immersive virtual reality for chronic pain. £98,156.00 (Principle Investigator).

2022 – 2023: The Pain Relief Foundation. The effects of non-invasive brain stimulation on chronic pain and central sensitisation in patients with radicular low-back pain (sciatica): a randomised, sham-controlled proof-of-principle study. £21,207. (Co-investigator)

2020 – 2024: Kings Prize/Anthony Mellow Fellowship. Harnessing endogenous analgesia with non-invasive deep brain stimulation. £148,601. (Principle Investigator).



Key publications

Key publications are highlighted

Bannister K & Hughes S (2022) 'One size doesn’t fit all: towards optimising the therapeutic potential of endogenous pain modulatory systems' Pain Publish Ahead of Print, , DOI Open access
Mehesz E, Karoui H, Strutton PH & Hughes SW (2021) 'Exposure to an Immersive Virtual Reality Environment can Modulate Perceptual Correlates of Endogenous Analgesia and Central Sensitization in Healthy Volunteers' The Journal of Pain 22, (6) 707-714 , DOI Open access
Hughes SW, Basra M, Chan C, Parr C, Wong F, Gomes S & Strutton PH (2020) 'Capsaicin-Induced Changes in Electrical Pain Perception Threshold Can Be Used to Assess the Magnitude of Secondary Hyperalgesia in Humans' Pain Medicine , DOI Open access
Hughes SW, Ward G & Strutton PH (2020) 'Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation over the primary motor cortex attenuates capsaicin‐induced dynamic mechanical allodynia and mechanical pain sensitivity in humans' European Journal of Pain 24, (6) 1130-1137 , DOI Open access
Hughes SW, Hellyer PJ, Sharp DJ, Newbould RD, Patel MC & Strutton PH (2020) 'Diffusion tensor imaging of lumbar spinal nerves reveals changes in microstructural integrity following decompression surgery associated with improvements in clinical symptoms: A case report' Magnetic Resonance Imaging 69, 65-70 , DOI Open access
Hughes SW, Zhao H, Auvinet EJ & Strutton PH (2019) 'Attenuation of capsaicin-induced ongoing pain and secondary hyperalgesia during exposure to an immersive virtual reality environment' PAIN Reports 4, (6) e790-e790 , DOI Open access
Hughes SW, Hellyer PJ, Sharp DJ, Newbould RD, Patel MC & Strutton PH (2019) 'Diffusion tensor imaging reveals changes in microstructural integrity along compressed nerve roots that correlate with chronic pain symptoms and motor deficiencies in elderly stenosis patients' NeuroImage: Clinical 23, 0-0 , DOI Open access
Hughes S, Grimsey S & Strutton PH (2018) 'Primary Motor Cortex Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Modulates Temporal Summation of the Nociceptive Withdrawal Reflex in Healthy Subjects' Pain Medicine 20, (6) 1156-1165 , DOI Open access
Hughes SW, Ali M, Sharma P, Insan N & Strutton PH (2018) 'Frequency-dependent top-down modulation of temporal summation by anodal transcranial direct-current stimulation of the primary motor cortex in healthy adults' European Journal of Pain 22, (8) 1494-1501 , DOI Open access
Hughes S, Hickey L, Donaldson LF, Lumb BM & Pickering AE (2015) 'Intrathecal reboxetine suppresses evoked and ongoing neuropathic pain behaviours by restoring spinal noradrenergic inhibitory tone' Pain 156, (2) 328-334 , DOI Open access
Hughes SW, Hickey L, Hulse RP, Lumb BM & Pickering AE (2013) 'Endogenous analgesic action of the pontospinal noradrenergic system spatially restricts and temporally delays the progression of neuropathic pain following tibial nerve injury' Pain 154, (9) 1680-1690 , DOI