Defining spinal pain circuitry
Chronic pain conditions dramatically transform the somatosensory nervous system, from one in which pain serves as a warning signal, promoting life and survival, to one in which pain is evoked by everyday activities, which greatly reduces quality of life. We investigate this altered sensory processing or ‘plasticity’ that occurs in chronic pain conditions, with the aim of identifying novel targets, because current treatment options are frequently ineffective or are limited by adverse side effects. Specifically, my research uses ex vivo electrophysiological approaches to advance our understanding of chronic pain mechanisms by focussing upon a group of spinal output neurons that are critically required for the manifestation of chronic pain. This seminar will highlight the utility of this approach for identification of spinal sensory circuitry likely relevant for the debilitating chronic pain symptoms of allodynia (touch evoked pain) and hyperalgesia (exaggerated pain).