In the U.S., more than 115 million adults suffer from chronic pain. Often, successful management of chronic pain involves the treatment of other conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders. In the Kolber lab, we try to understand the common mechanisms of chronic pain and psychiatric illness. This is done by integrating cutting-edge behavioral, pharmacological, electrophysiological, and molecular techniques to understand the mechanisms of stress and pain.
Most of our work is focused on studying the amygdala, which is a small structure in the brain involved in processing stressful stimuli, modulating reactions to a stressor, and modulating pain responses. Depending on the emotional state of an organism, activation of the amygdala can either increase or decrease pain. We are trying to understand the molecular and cellular components of this processing. The precise types of pain that we are interested in understanding include disorders with a clear connection to stress (e.g. fibromyalgia) as well as those that are less commonly associated with emotional dysregulation (e.g. painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis).
Approaches used in the lab include behavioral tests (e.g. nociceptive tests, anxiety tests, depression tests, learning and memory tasks), physiology (e.g. in vivo recording from the brain, EMG recording during peripheral stimulation), optogenetics, genetic manipulation (e.g. disrupting or activating genes using viral constructs), and molecular/cellular techniques (e.g. PCR, RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, Western analysis, cell culture, and cloning).
Trainees working in the lab receive a broad-based training in behavior, neuroanatomy, surgical techniques, and molecular biology. This training regiment provides a strong foundation for future success in research and medicine.
- American Pain Society - Sharon S. Keller Chronic Pain Research Program
- American Physiological Society - Undergraduate Research Program
- Duquesne University - Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
- Duquesne University - Hunkele Dreaded Disease Fund
- International Association for the Study of Pain and the SCAN|Design Foundation - Early Career Research Grant
- National Institutes of Health - National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine