Dr. Loren Martin, Psychology, University of Toronto at Mississauga
Talk Title: The Genetic and Psychosocial Modulation of Pain in Mice and People
Brain & Behaviour Seminar Series 2015-2016
Reception to follow in the Psychology Lounge, room 4043, Sidney Smith Hall
Abstract: For many the term translational research refers to the "bench-to-bedside" enterprise of harnessing knowledge from basic science to develop new drugs, devices and therapies for patients. The current gap between translating basic science research findings into effective pain therapies in humans is a serious challenge, thus necessitating the concurrent use of both animal models and human cohorts. This talk will focus on using different translational approaches to address different aspects of pain research. First, we have identified a novel genetic biomarker for the development of chronic pain in people. These genes, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and epiregulin (EREG) have been exhaustively studied in various biological processes - yet their prominent role in pain processing has been completely overlooked. We used a reverse-translational approach to demonstrate that in mouse models of chronic pain EREG produced from the blood sensitizes dorsal root ganglion neurons to enhance pain sensitivity. Secondly, since the development of chronic pain is not purely biological we have been exploring the modulation of pain by social and cognitive factors. In this regard, I will present some new data showing that pain is modulated by psychosocial factors and recent efforts in our lab to translate these findings to people. In particular we find that familiarity between conspecifics is necessary for empathy and enhanced stress prevents the expression of empathy between strangers. Additionally, we also have data showing that mice and people become sensitized to their environment when they have had an aversive pain experience within that environment. This sensitization persists for at least 24 hours, is only present in males of both species and is dependent on the stress response. These models provide a new means for studying the relationship between stress and pain by examining the influence of social and environmental stressors in both mice and people.
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