Development of platforms to measure pain in rodents

Objective assessment of pain in mice and rats remains an ongoing challenge in the field. In order to increase our fundamental understanding of the neurobiology of pain and harness the translational potential of preclinical pain models, we need easy, unbiased, and robust measurements of pain in animals. To this end, for reflex-based pain assays, we apply high-speed videography, machine/deep learning for body part tracking, statistical modeling, and develop new software for more precise measurements of pain.

The role of sensory neurons during social interactions

Mechanical stimulation across the skin’s surface is important for normal development and for forming tight social bonds. While we appreciate that touch drives many behaviors that govern our lives, the neural circuit mechanisms from skin-to-brain, that promote touch dependent behaviors remain poorly defined.

Here, we are using mouse genetics to test for necessity and sufficiency of molecular classes of peripheral sensory neurons in promoting normal development and social interactions.

Genetic basis of pain

Individual differences in responsiveness to pain in both mice and humans, are driven in part by allelic variation in genes important for pain processing. Teasing apart how genes and neural circuits drive pain behavioral responses across genetically diverse populations of people or inbred mouse lines is essential for unraveling the neurobiology of pain and discovering effective pain therapeutics. To this end, we are using our automated pain measurement platform and other assays across genetically diverse mouse lines, and beginning to probe for genetic and circuit level mechanisms that explain genetic differences to the sensory encoding of pain.