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We are scientists, artists, therapists. We work to advance medicine through communication, community, creativity.

Can we study pain by shedding on it the light of play?

Chronic pain (CP) is a debilitating public health concern that affects anywhere between 16%-41% of Canadians, with factors such as age, gender, cultural context and socioeconomic status explaining the high variability. Chronic pain challenges researchers, clinicians, pharmacists, and policy-makers at several levels, because the elusive nature of pain perception makes it difficult to quantify and qualify pain thus increases the need for a personalized and trial-and-error based pain management system. This increased the cost of care for untreated patients, and also increased the risks of secondary effects due to stress, disability or medication toxicity. Play the Pain is conceptualized with recognition of the tremendous benefit of mHealth approaches to involved patients in self-monitoring, pain tracking and data recording as a way of collaborative decision making with clinicians. In pain research, electronic pain diaries were introduced about two decades ago, with the explicit purpose to create a taxonomy of pain with attention to the psychological and temporal profile of pain experience. 

Can we design playful and innovative information and communication technologies that will help us study pain qualitatively, through building 'virtual' communities for digital creativity? One in every five of us is suffering from chronic pain. Pain researchers admit that pharmacological sciences are limited: 'Pain is a psychobiologically complex phenomenon.'; 'Experiences of pain are vastly different depending on individual and social circumstances.'; 'There are no methods to quantify the quality of experiences.', etc. We come together to sketch a few ideas about how to use art as an instrument for communicating and documenting the diversity of personal experiences of pain and resilience.

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This is a discussion forum for us to share ideas about the many ways that pain is experienced and expressed (day 1); and the alternative coping strategies that involve psychosocial, or individual creative activities (day 2).

LOCATION: 4TH SPACE, J.W. McConnell Building (1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.),Sir George Williams Campus,  Metro Guy-Concordia

DAY 1 (How to Express Pain?)   Oct 1 2019 (Starting at 10:00)

10:00  What is Play the Pain? (Introduction and Welcome remarks by Najmeh Khalili-Mahani )
10:30  Creative Communities  (Janis Timm-Bottos)         
12:00  Brown bag lunch & chat (coffee will be served)
13:00  Resilience Through Symbols [round table] (Sabrina Landecker)
15:00  neuroScientific Boundaries: Where is the pain in the brain? (Mathieu Roy)
16:30  Words That Relate [writing workshop] (Marie-Paule Grimaldi)  

DAY 2 (How to Act Pain Out?)  Oct 2 2019 (Starting at 10:00) 

10:00 Distractions [ brain & pain & play] (Mathieu Roy's students)
10:30 Music & Healing  (Ingrid Wissink)
11:30 Meditations [yoga] (Afra Tucker)Brown bag lunch & chat  (coffee will be served)
13:30 Dr Clown Foundation [theater] (Melissa Holland)
14:45 Why Can pain make us laugh? Charlie Chaplin and toothaches [film] (Rosanna Maule)
16:30 Disco Through Pain [improvise dance] (Sarah Wendt) 

Activities will start on time. There is a 10-15 min break between each activity. Please feel free to drop in even for a little.

If you like to participate in future activities, please email

The Team Behind the Project


Najmeh Khalili-Mahani

Neuroscientist / Organizer
Naj is the founder of the Media Health lab at the PERFORM Centre. Using methods from engineering (MEng, McGill), film studies (MA, Concordia) and neuroscience (Ph.D., McGill), she explores the link between media, stress, and health. She conceived Play the Pain project based on her neurologist sister's story, finding resilience against terminal cancer through arts.

Janis Timm-Bottos

Professor / Art Therapist
she is a board-certified art therapist and an interdisciplinary scholar with a sustained research practice investigating the community art studio as a therapeutic site for individual, family and community healing. A presenter in both local and international venues, she advocates for the return of small, welcoming, free community art spaces located between neighborhoods.

Sabrina Landecker

Sabrina is vice-president of l'Association de la Fibromyalgie région Île-De-Montréal (AFIM), and student representative of l’Association des Art-Thérapeute du Québec (AATQ). With a background in arts and psychology, she researches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), art therapy and Fibromyalgia and provides support to chronic pain patients at Jean-Talon Hospital.

Marie-Paule Grimaldi

Marie-Paule Grimaldi is a writer and activist/artist, whose social and hybrid work extends to women in homeless shelters and prisons. In 2018, she founded Debout: Acts of Speech, an artistic company dedicated to the spoken word, with which she creates space for encounters through performance and improvisation within collective shows and public installations or workshops.

Mathieu Roy

He holds a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) on brain imaging of experimental and chronic pain (Dept. Psychology at McGill University). He has done seminal work to provide neuroimaging evidence for the relation between music and perception of experimental pain. Currently, he investigates the efficacy of non-pharmacological interventions such as distraction and exercise for chronic pain treatment.

Christophe Tanguay Sabourin

Presents on behalf of Dr. Roy

Anaïs Lépine Lopez

Music Care, an app for music-induced analgesia.

Ajar Diushekeeva

Does music reduce pain through attention or emotion?

Darius Valevicius

What are the characteristics of the music that reduces pain?

Sophie Desjardins

Reward and motivation factors in pain distraction. 

Ingrid Wissink

Musician / Therapist
10:30 - 11:15 Ingrid Wissing is a music therapist specialized in working with older adults and persons with autism. Her current Master's thesis (Concordia U) research focuses on the psychosocial impact of group music therapy for women living with contested chronic illnesses. In collaboration with the Homebase movement, she explores drumming and improvisation experiences, as well as lyrical emotional expressions in group therapy.

Afra Tucker

Yoga teacher / Psychology student
Afra Tucker is a certified yoga teacher (RYT 200) and the founder of the Concordia Yoga Club. A multidisciplinarian, her first degree is in East Asian Studies (McGill University). She has worked several years in communications and is currently studying Psychology at Concordia University focusing on somatic psychology and the healing capacity of “mind-body” practices such as yoga.

Melissa Holland

Theater Artist / Dr. Clown
Melissa Holland discovered the art of clown during her studies in Drama in Education and has been focusing on the art of therapeutic clown since 1999. She is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Dr. Clown Foundation in Montreal. Since 2002, this organization trains and hires professional clowns to bring joy, connection, and resilience, especially in care for children with special needs and seniors.

Rosanna Maule

Professor /  Filmmaker
Rosanna Maule is a Professor of Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. She is the author of Digital Platforms and Feminist Film Discourse; and the co-director of a documentary Contemporary Women Filmmakers: The State of Things, focusing on new media's role in giving voice and visibility to the narratives of women who are often outside of the authorship streams.

Sarah Wendt

Artist / Dance Teacher
Sarah Wendt is a multidisciplinary artist whose work involves a hybrid of video, installation, sculpture, music, and choreography. She also teaches contemporary dance and voice and movement (for example to people with Parkinson's), with a focus on improvisation and internal physical perceptions. Sarah explores disco and social dance as methods for building resilience through the embodiment of rhythm.
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