Meet the Speakers of the 2019 Scientific Meeting!
Associate Professor | University of Maryland
- Area of Expertise: Basic and Clinical Pain
- How long have you worked in your field? Since 2012
- Why did you enter your field? Interest in pain modulation
- What makes you most excited about your field? Learning about the brain functions
- What are you currently working on? Placebo and nocebo
Associate Professor | Harvard Medical School
- Area of Expertise: Pain Psychology
- How long have you worked in your field? 15 years
- Why did you enter your field? There is a great need for improved understanding and management of chronic pain, and the most effective treatment approaches involve interdisciplinary teams combining a variety of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic approaches. That's part of what makes pain such an exciting scientific field.
- What makes you most excited about your field? The person-to-person variability in pain responses is enormous. We are steadily increasing our understanding of these individual differences, which is exciting not because we want to try to eliminate that variability, but rather because we are increasingly able to personalize and optimize pain management as a function of an individual patient's characteristics.
- What are you currently working on? Our group is studying the mechanisms by which a variety of treatment approaches (e.g., meditation, CBT, acupuncture) help to alleviate pain so that we can do a more effective job of individually tailoring treatment programs to each individual patient.
Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Psychology | Yale University
- Area of Expertise: Psychological perspectives on pain and pain management
- How long have you worked in your field? 39 years
- Why did you enter your field? In 1980, I collaborated with Dennis Turk who was also faculty at Yale to co-author a successful research grant application to develop and test a cognitive-behavioral intervention for chronic pain management for Veterans. Together we established an integrated clinical, research and training pain management program based at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System (formerly the West Haven VA Medical Center). These early efforts fueled my passion for understanding pain and for improving pain care that continues to this day.
- What makes you most excited about your field? It is exciting to see growing national attention to the serious public health problem of pain. I am personally gratified by my contributions to the publication of the IOM report that called for a national transformation in pain prevention, care, education and research and the subsequent development of the National Pain Strategy. Both documents highlight the biopsychosocial model as the predominant model of pain and pain management and serves as the foundation for recent efforts to promote integrated, evidence-based, patient-centered, multimodal and interdisciplinary model of pain care that emphasizes non-pharmacological approaches, including psychological and behavioral approaches.
- What are you currently working on? I am currently one of three Multiple PIs of the NIH-DoD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory Coordinating Center that supports the enactment of 11 pragmatic clinical trials of non-pharmacological approaches to management of pain and comorbid conditions among military service members and Veterans. I am also Multiple PI of an NIH/NCCIH funded project that is developing and validating an automated measure of Pain Care Quality using machine learning and natural language processing to extract information from unstructured text notes of primary care providers. I am also engaged in VA and NIH funded research designed to develop and test innovative technology assisted pain self-management interventions, as well as work in support of National Pain Strategy population health research objectives. Finally, I am proud to be contributing to government health policy initiatives including membership on the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee.
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience | UT Southwestern Medical Center
- Area of Expertise: Basic Science, spinal cord development and circuitry
- How long have you worked in your field? I studied ion channel biophysics for my Ph.D. work with Dr. Lily Jan at UCSF. I then moved to study transcription factor networks that specify neuronal cell types in the developing spinal cord with Dr. Jane Johnson at UT Southwestern (UTSW). As a Sara and Frank McKnight Fellow at UTSW, I transitioned to uncovering the spinal cord circuitry that mediates proprioception. Since starting my own lab in 2015, we have focused on understanding both the developmental programs and circuitry that underlie both pain and proprioception.
- Why did you enter your field? Having studied the transcriptional networks that drive cell type specificity in the developing spinal cord for my postdoctoral work, I was struck by how little we knew about what kinds of neuronal circuits these cells develop into as an adult. I realized that we were well-positioned to address this gap in knowledge using the latest genetic and molecular tools in mice. In doing so, we could make fundamental insights into how somatosensory networks develop and process information.
- What makes you most excited about your field? Somatosensation is one of the least understood of all the “five” senses. Its innervation covers the entire body and its information is sent through complicated networks in the spinal cord. Recently, the genetic, molecular, electrophysiological, and behavioral analyses in mice have aligned such that we can probe specific cell types within the spinal cord and DRG. I’m excited that using such tools we can make immense progress understanding how somatosensory networks develop and process somatosensory information.
- What are you currently working on? In regards to pain, we are currently studying the molecular mechanisms that underlie the development of nociceptors by interrogating the function of a transcription factor, PRDM12, implicated in congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP). By understanding how PRDM12 functions to define and maintain nociceptor cell type, we hope to identify potential targets for novel analgesics.
Department of Anesthesiology | University of Utah
- Area of expertise: Neuroscience, Pain, and Fatigue
- How long have you worked in your field? 49 years
- Why did you enter your field? Wanted to know how the brain works.
- What makes you most excited about your field? Finding new information about how pain, fatigue, and other senses work.
- What are you currently working on? I am using imaging using reporter mice to determine how nerve endings signal fatigue and pain in skeletal muscles. I am also using RNAseq in patients to determine what causes ME/CFS.
Assitant Professor | Department of Psychology, University of Miami
- Area of Expertise: Social and cultural neuroscience, Neuroimaging, sociocultural influences on pain
- How long have you worked in your field? 14 years
- Why did you enter your field? I began my scientific career with training in both anthropology and neuroscience. However, neither field fully explained brain mechanisms underlying the diversity of human thought and behavior. So, my research career has been focused on using theory and methods form both anthropology and neuroscience to understand the bidirectional interactions between social and cultural processes and the brain and their influences on human health, with a focus on pain.
- What makes you most excited about your field? One of the aspects of pain research that excites me the most is the potential to understand and alleviate a key contributor to health disparities.
- What are you currently working on? We are currently trying to understand the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms underlying demographic disparities in pain and pain treatment using a variety of methods including medical simulations, psychophysiology and fMRI.
Assistant Professor | Duke University School of Medicine
- Area of Expertise: Pain psychophysics and neuroimaging
- How long have you worked in your field? Since 2005; about 14 years
- Why did you enter your field> When I was growing up, my grandmother had a rare disease which caused the skin on her back to always feel like it was sunburned. She took a lot of pills and none of them really helped. I realized then that more needed to be done for pain research and treatment.
- What makes you most excited about your field? The fact that so many people are afflicted with chronic pain. This excites me because by studying chronic pain, the knowledge that I uncover can reach and help a lot of people improve the quality of their lives and reduce their suffering.
- What are you currently working on? I am currently determining how spinal cord activity is different in patients with fibromyalgia compared to healthy controls, and how this may change over time.
Assistant Professor Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry | Yale University
- Area of Expertise: Basic science, Membrane protein biochemistry, Chemical biology
- How long have you worked in your field? I earned my PhD in chemical biology in 2011 for studying the role of cysteine oxidation in regulating eukaryotic signal transduction cascades. From 2012-2017, I was a postdoctoral fellow with David Julius at UCSF where I was introduced to ion channels involved in pain signaling, including my favorite ion channel, TRPA1. On January 1, 2018, I started my own lab at Yale University where we are continuing to probe the regulation of TRPA1 by small molecules and proteins.
- Why did you enter your field? After graduate school, I wanted to change gear and challenge myself to take on a completely new (to me) field. I came across two papers from David Julius' lab where they were characterizing the molecular basis of infrared detection in rattlesnakes and vampire bats, and I thought this was the coolest science I had ever read about. After interviewing with David's lab, and hearing about the various projects going on in the lab, I knew that was where I wanted to work. I knew I would learn a lot, I hoped I would figure out how to build a research program around what I learned in David's lab with what I learned in graduate school, and in the process, I would become more confident in my ability to tackle new and exciting challenges.
- What makes you most excited about your field? I am so excited to work in the pain field because it is so easy to talk to anyone about. Everyone has experienced pain and they understand the sensation my lab studies, as well as the specific ion channel we are working with. I have yet to talk to someone who is not familiar with the burning sensation from wasabi or the tear-inducing effect of chopping an onion. I love being able to talk to my family, friends, students and neighbors about the questions I am passionate about and for them to "get" it.
- What are you currently working on? My lab is currently exploring the regulation of the wasabi receptor, TRPA1 by small molecules and proteins. One project is focused on continuing structural studies with TRPA1 and developing new purification methods that will allow us to determine the structure of TRPA1 in a membrane-like environment. We hope this will allow us to observe gating-associated conformational changes. We are also employing biotin-conjugating proximity tags to identify proteins that uniquely interact with TRPA1 in different contexts. And a new project in the lab is working to understand how TRPA1 participates in signal transduction cascades.
Professor | The University of Tulsa
- Area of Expertise: Clinical Psychology
- How long have you worked in your field? 23 years
- Why did you enter your field? I found that it was the perfect blend of psychology and biology (neuroscience).
- What makes you most excited about your field? What's both exciting and sad is that there is still so much to learn about pain and how to reverse its negative impact.
- What are you currently working on? Trying to identify the psychosocial and biological mechanisms that contribute to higher pain prevalence in Native Americans.
Professor | University of Iowa
- Area of Expertise: Migraine
- How long have you worked in your field? 12 years on migraine, 30 years on the neuropeptide CGRP
- Why did you enter your field? I was skiing and decided that after working on the neuropeptide CGRP for 20 years that we should figure out how it could cause migraine.
- What makes you most excited about your field? We are helping people have better lives and gaining insight to how the brain processes sensory information.
- What are you currently working on? We are looking at how the vasculature and brain are talking to each other in migraine.
Assistant Professor | University of Arizona
- Area of Expertise: Opioid signal transduction and drug discovery
- How long have you worked in your field? 17 years
- Why did you enter your field? The intricate interplay of signal transduction is intensely interest to me. The great medical need of untreated pain patients and the opioid crisis further drew me to the opioid and pain fields.
- What makes you most excited about your field? Identifying completely new molecular regulators and mechanisms is by far the most exciting part of our field.
- What are you currently working on? My main projects are identifying molecular mechanisms by which Heat shock protein 90 regulates opioid signaling, and investigating the biology of the mu-delta opioid heterodimer using our novel tools.