Brain Star winner: Lizbeth Ayoub

Lizbeth Ayoub

Lizbeth Ayoub – University of Toronto

Scientific publication:
Ayoub LJ, Barnett A, Leboucher A, Golosky M, McAndrews MP, Seminowicz DA, Moayedi M. The medial temporal lobe in nociception: a meta-analytic and functional connectivity study. Pain 2019;160(6):1245-1260. Link to paper

Lizbeth Ayoub is supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Frederick Banting and Charles Best Doctoral Research Award. For this study, she was funded by the Harron G. Wilson Trust Bursary, the Harron Scholarship and the UTCSP Pain Scientist Award. M. Moayedi was supported by the Connaught Fund from the University of Toronto and acknowledges support from the Bertha Rosenstadt Endowment Fund. He also holds a National Science and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant RGPIN-2018- 04908. The OPP project (Principal Investigator: A. Vania Apkarian, Ph.D. at Northwestern University) is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). D.A. Seminowicz was funded by National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research R21DE023964.

Laboratory website:
Dr. Massieh Moayedi’s lab website:
Dr. Mary Pat McAndrews’s website:

Lizbeth Ayoub lives in Toronto, Ontario

The anterior hippocampus is a key brain region in chronic pain

Chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disability in the world. In Canada, it affects 19 per cent of adults and costs over $50 billion every year. Despite its prevalence, brain mechanisms underlying the development of chronic pain are not well understood.

A study led by Lizbeth Ayoub, working in the laboratory of Dr. Massieh Moayedi and Dr. Mary Pat McAndrews at the University of Toronto shows for the first time that an area of the brain — called the anterior hippocampus —  is consistently involved in both acute and chronic pain. They further show for the first time that in a large sample of patients with chronic low-back pain, the network of the anterior hippocampus is abnormal in relation with the rest of the brain. They found it fails to communicate with the medial prefrontal cortex, a region involved in pain modulation.

These findings strongly implicate the anterior hippocampus in pain processing and potentially open a novel therapeutic window targeting this region and its associated processes. For example, it may serve as a target region in studies investigating mechanisms underlying memory and chronic pain, neurosurgical treatments (i.e. deep brain stimulation) or cognitive therapies for the treatment of chronic pain. Great interest in this new avenue was shown by pain and memory researchers in several local, national, and international conferences. This meta-analysis serves to direct the field of research in chronic pain to investigate the role of the hippocampus in pain, and its potential future contribution to pain treatment.

Lizbeth Ayoub

Lizbeth Ayoub, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, has led the formulation of the research question, the development and implementation of study procedures and analyses and drafting of the manuscript for this project with the guidance of her mentors — Dr. Massieh Moayedi and Dr. Mary Pat McAndrews.

“This manuscript is the result of an extensive team effort from leading pain and memory experts, for which I could not have taken a leadership position without their continued mentorship,” Ayoub says.