Professional and Academic Career
Irene is Professor of Anaesthetic Neuroscience in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Oxford. She is also Warden of Merton College, Oxford. She did her undergraduate and graduate studies in Biochemistry at Oxford from 1985-1993. Her doctoral studies used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to understand disease mechanisms. She then held a postdoctoral position at Harvard, USA until 1996 using the novel functional neuroimaging technique - working at the Martinos imaging centre. In 1997, she returned to Oxford and was a founding member of the now world-leading Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB). In 2001 she became tenured in the Department of Physiology and Genetics, Oxford. She then became FMRIB’s Director in 2005 and led it until 2015. She was simultaneously appointed to the Nuffield Chair in Anaesthetic Sciences, and in 2016 was appointed Head of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences: a 550-person strong department of scientists and clinicians drawn from neurology, ophthalmology and anaesthetics. In 2019 she returned to her undergraduate College as their 51st Warden (since 1264).
Honours & Awards
- Gibb’s Prize for joint-top First Class in undergraduate degree (1989)
- Senior Scholar and Wellcome Prize Student for doctoral studies at Oxford (1990-93)
- American Academy of Neurology Foreign Scholarship Award for doctoral work (1993)
- Triennial Patrick Wall Medal from the Royal College of Anaesthetists (2008)
- Fellow Royal College Anaesthetists for contributions to the discipline (2009)
- Elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2015)
- Feldberg Foundation Prize winner (2017)
- British Neuroscience Association’s Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience award (2018)
Administrative & Organisational Experience
Alongside many senior administrative and organisational roles within Oxford University, Irene has served and continue to serve on many national and international committees. She was elected to the Council of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), and was Chair of their Scientific Program Committee for the Biannual meeting in Milan (2012) attracting close to 8,000 attendees. She has served on Council for the British Neuroscience Association, and on the Scientific Program Committee for the Society for Neuroscience. She co-chaired Canada’s Excellence Research Chair competitions.
Irene serves on the Lundbeck Brain Prize Committee, and is a Trustee for MQ, - a mental health charity supporting research. She is currently appointed to the UK’s Council of the Medical Research Council and has served on their Neuroscience and Mental Health Board as Deputy Chair. She am a strong advocate for women in science and am involved in several national and international mentorship schemes.
My research focuses on using advanced neuroimaging to determine the mechanisms underpinning acute and chronic pain. My multidisciplinary team has provided the evidence base for and understanding of why there is often a non-linear relationship between nociceptive input (tissue damage) and the pain experienced. My work spans basic discovery neuroscience, as it relates to pain as a core perception, through to translational neuroscience. Using an array of novel paradigm designs that use cognitive, emotional and pharmacological manipulations of perception, we have discovered many of the key brain networks and cortical regions underpinning pain and its transition from acute to chronic states. Throughout, we have developed novel imaging tools, such as brainstem and spinal cord imaging as well as new ways to imaging tonic pain states. We are also contributing to our understanding the neural basis anaesthesia-induced altered states of consciousness using EEG and functional neuroimaging.
Tracey I, Woolf CJ, Andrews NA. Composite Pain Biomarker Signatures for Objective Assessment and Effective Treatment. Neuron. 2019 Mar 6;101(5):783-800.
Segerdahl AR, Themistocleous AC, Fido D, Bennett DL, Tracey I. A brain-based pain facilitation mechanism contributes to painful diabetic polyneuropathy. Brain. 2018 Feb 1;141(2):357-364.
Makin TR, Scholz J, Henderson Slater D, Johansen-Berg H, Tracey I. Reassessing cortical reorganization in the primary sensorimotor cortex following arm amputation. Brain. 2015 Aug;138(Pt 8):2140-6.
Segerdahl AR, Mezue M, Okell TW, Farrar JT, Tracey I. The dorsal posterior insula subserves a fundamental role in human pain. Nat Neurosci. 2015 Apr;18(4):499-500.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh R, Warnaby C, Rogers R, Jbabdi S, Tracey I. Slow-wave activity saturation and thalamocortical isolation during propofol anesthesia in humans. Sci Transl Med. 2013 Oct 23;5(208):208ra148.
Wanigasekera V, Lee MC, Rogers R, Kong Y, Leknes S, Andersson J, Tracey I. Baseline reward circuitry activity and trait reward responsiveness predict expression of opioid analgesia in healthy subjects. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 23;109(43):17705-10.
Bingel U, Wanigasekera V, Wiech K, Ni Mhuircheartaigh R, Lee MC, Ploner M, Tracey I. The effect of treatment expectation on drug efficacy: imaging the analgesic benefit of the opioid remifentanil. Sci Transl Med. 2011 Feb 16;3(70):70ra14.
Ploner M, Lee MC, Wiech K, Bingel U, Tracey I. Prestimulus functional connectivity determines pain perception in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan 5;107(1):355-60.
Ploghaus A, Narain C, Beckmann CF, Clare S, Bantick S, Wise R, Matthews PM, Rawlins JN, Tracey I. Exacerbation of pain by anxiety is associated with activity in a hippocampal network. J Neurosci. 2001 Dec 15;21(24):9896-903.
^Ploghaus A, ^Tracey I, Gati JS, Clare S, Menon RS, Matthews PM, Rawlins JN. Dissociating pain from its anticipation in the human brain. Science. 1999 Jun 18;284(5422):1979-81. ^joint corresponding