Dr. Robert Bonin, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto
Talk Title: Reconsolidating Memory Traces of Pain
Brain & Behaviour Seminar Series 2015-2016
Reception to follow in the Psychology Lounge, room 4043, Sidney Smith Hall
Abstract: Persistent pain is the most common cause of disability world-wide. One reason the prevalence of persistent pain remains so high is that many treatment approaches target the symptoms of pain rather than address the underlying causes. Long-lasting changes in the processing of nociceptive information within the dorsal horn of the spinal cord can contribute to enhanced pain sensitivity, or hyperalgesia, in a process that bears a strong mechanistic resemblance to learning and memory. The parallels between memory formation and hyperalgesia raise the possibility that hyperalgesia may also exhibit a phenomenon similar to memory reconsolidation: a protein synthesis-dependent process by which memories are rendered labile after reactivation and susceptible to erasure. In this talk I will present evidence that both acute and long-term hyperalgesia become labile after reactivation of the sensitized pain pathways, allowing hyperalgesia to be reversed by blocking protein synthesis at the spinal level. These findings reveal a previously-unknown mechanism underlying the maintenance of hyperalgesia and suggest a novel therapeutic opportunity for treating a root cause of persistent pain. The discovery of an analogue of reconsolidation outside defined learning circuits also challenges conventional interpretations of reconsolidation as a learning-specific phenomenon. In the last part of the talk I will introduce new approaches being adopted to examine sensory reconsolidation in freely-behaving animals.
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