Dr Sam Hughes

Dr Sam Hughes

Lecturer in Human Neuroscience

School of Psychology (Faculty of Health)



Lecturer in Human Neuroscience

Head of the Pain Neuroplasticity and 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: University of Bristol

After receiving my PhD in the descending modulation of pain from the University of Bristol I joined the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, where I completed 2 post doctoral positions. The first involved carrying out research into the structure and function of compressed spinal nerves in sciatica patients using neuroimaging, neurophysiology and quantitative sensory testing techniques. The second explored the use of non-invasive brain stimulation and immersive virtual reality in human surrogate pain models. I then moved to the Department of Neuroimaging at Kings College London to start a research fellowship using non-invasive deep brain stimulation in a human surrogate model of central sensitisation. In July 2020, I joined the University of Plymouth as a Lecturer in Human Neuroscience. 


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

My research is focused on understanding endogenous analgesic processes in human surrogate pain models and chronic pain patients. I use psychophysical approaches (e.g. quantitative sensory testing and conditioned pain modulation), electrocutaneous stimulation, neuroimaging and neuromodulation techniques (e.g. virtual reality, tDCS, temporal interference) to investigate the sensitisation and modulation of central nociceptive activity. 

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


  • Dr Matt Howard (Kings College London)
  • Dr Kirsty Bannister (Kings College London)
  • Dr Paul Strutton (Imperial College London)
  • Dr Ines Violante (University of Surrey)
  • Dr Nir Grossman (Imperial College London)
  • Prof Thomas Graven-Nielsen (Aalborg University, Denmark)
  • Dr Robert Drake (University of Bristol)

Grants & contracts

The Pain Relief Foundation (2018) – co-investigator  

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)

Kings Prize (Anthony Mellows) Fellowship/Wellcome Trust (2019) – lead investigator

Top-down influences of neuromodulation on endogenous analgesia (£148,601)



Key publications

Key publications are highlighted

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
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