Rita Allen Foundation Award in Pain Spotlight
Meaghan C. Creed, PhD
Washington University School of Medicine
Synaptic Adaptations Underlying Affective Symptoms of Chronic Pain
How/why did you enter the field of pain?
Throughout my career, my research focused on the role of dopamine and endogenous opioids in addiction and mood disorders, and developing novel neuromodulation therapies for these disorders. When starting my own lab, I was struck by the overlap between these conditions and chronic pain; they are highly co-morbid, share common genetic risk factors and involve converging brain structures. Moreover, across all these disorders, dopamine and endogenous opioids contribute to altered neural plasticity in a collection of brain structures called the basal ganglia. Given the urgent need for novel therapies for chronic pain, I became motivated to apply the principles of my previous work studying basal ganglia circuits to understanding the neural circuit and synaptic mechanisms underlying the affective symptoms of chronic pain.
What does it mean for you to be a 2019 Rita Allen Foundation Award in Pain recipient?
It is an honour to be recognized by the Rita Allen Foundation and the American Pain Society. One of my long-term goals is to develop neuromodulation protocols that can reverse persistent, pain-induced neural circuit changes that underlie affective symptoms of chronic pain disorders. The award funding will allow me to open new research directions towards this ambitious goal. The network of expertise and collaborators will allow us to use innovative approaches to understand the neural circuit-basis of chronic pain, while still maximizing the translational impact of this work.
What is your favorite part of your work, and why?
My favourite part is being at the bench - or microscope or electrophysiology rig - with my lab members to see data being generated in real time. Since our experiments integrate molecular, synaptic and in vivo levels, it's incredibly satisfying to see these approaches come together and begin to answer over-arching scientific questions. During my PhD and post-doctoral training, I was driven by the excitement of being the first person to learn something new about how neural circuits drive behavior. Now, I look forward to sharing this excitement with my trainees.