UTCSP Trainee Scholarship Recipients 2016-17

Erinn Acland completed her Honours Psychology B.A. at McGill University under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Mogil and Dr. Melanie Dirks. She is currently finishing her M.A. and starting her PhD in Psychology under the supervision of Dr. Loren Martin at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Erinn is investigating sex differences in the development and maintenance of chronic pain. Females are more likely to develop chronic pain and subsequent comorbid mental health disorders. Why this occurs is unknown and exacerbated by researchers using only male rodents in their experiments to study pain. Thus, Erinn aims to characterize the sexually dimorphic development and maintenance of neuropathic pain in mice at a behavioural and molecular level. Understanding these sex differences may identify new targets for effectively treating chronic pain in females.

Abigail D'Souza completed a Balchelor of Science degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Toronto.  She is currently a first year Masters student in Pharmaceutical Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Robert Bonin at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto.  She has been the recipient of several outstanding academic achievement awards as well as the Gerald J. Leahy Award in Chemistry and the Tom and Rose DiGiacomo Bursary.  Abigail's research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which plastic hanges in pain pathways contribute to chronic pain.  She is particularly interested in identifying the mechanisms by which these changes can be manipulated via reconsolidation and exploring the possible role that defects in reconsolidation play in chronic pain.  The results of this project could yield profound new insights into the porcesses by which plasticity is regulated in the CNS, and identify novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of chronic pain.

Anton Rogachov completed a Bachelor of Science degree at McMaster University, with honors, in Biology. Anton is currently in the 2nd year of a Master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Karen Davis at the Toronto Western Research Institute. His research focuses on the relationship between the dynamics within the pain connectome that dictates communication between pain-, salience-, and antinociceptive-related brain networks. Specifically, the project examines the relationship between this pain connectome and individual differences in pain sensitivity and coping. This study will provide a novel perspective on the brain mechanisms underlying individual pain characteristics.

Peter Shih-Ping Hung completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours in Pharmacology & Therapeutics) at McGill University. Peter is currently a second year Master's student under the guidance of surgeon-scientist Dr. Mojgan Hodaie at the Krembil Research Institute. Transitioning from his prior undergraduate research focus on rodent models of chronic trigeminal neuropathic pain, Peter's graduate research aims to use in vivo neuroimaging tools such as diffusion tensor imaging and magnetoencephalography to uncover structural and functional correlates of clinical response following surgical treatment for trigeminal neuralgia—a debilitating unilateral chronic facial pain disorder.

Sarasa Tohyama completed her B.Sc. (Honours) in Psychology from McGill University under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Mogil, where she examined the placebo effect in pain clinical trials. She will be starting her Master’s degree with Dr. Mojgan Hodaie at the Toronto Western Research Institute. Her research focuses on how emotion-related brain structure, function, and behaviour are associated with facial neuropathic pain syndromes.

 

UTCSP Trainee Scholarship Recipients 2015-16

Rachael Bosma completed her PhD at Queen’s University under the supervision of Dr. Patrick Stroman. Her doctoral research focused on the development and application of spinal cord imaging techniques for the study of chronic pain. Her postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Karen Davis uses brain imaging to examine how biological and psychological factors alter brain function and influence pain perception.  Specifically, she will study several different chronic pain conditions, including MS and Ankylosing spondylitis, as well as different treatment therapies, and elucidate underlying factors and plasticity in brain circuits that contribute to treatment effectiveness in some patients, but not others.

Joshua Cheng completed a Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree at the University of Western Ontario, with a specialization in physiology. He is currently in the 3rd year of his PhD studies under the supervision of Dr. Karen Davis at the Toronto Western Research Institute. Joshua’s research focuses on the static and dynamic neural correlates underlying individual differences in ascending pain facilitation and descending pain inhibition.

Lindsay Jibb completed a Bachelor of Science in biology at Queen’s University, a Master’s of Science in comparative biochemistry at the University of British Columbia, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Toronto. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto, supervised by Dr. Jennifer Stinson. Lindsay’s PhD dissertation focuses on the development and evaluation of a smartphone-based application to provide adolescents with cancer with real-time pain management decision support.

Anton Rogachov completed a Bachelor of Science degree at McMaster University, with honors, in Biology. Anton is currently in the 2nd year of a Master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Karen Davis at the Toronto Western Research Institute. His research focuses on the relationship between the dynamics within the pain connectome that dictates communication between pain-, salience-, and antinociceptive-related brain networks. Specifically, the project examines the relationship between this pain connectome and individual differences in pain sensitivity and coping. This study will provide a novel perspective on the brain mechanisms underlying individual pain characteristics.

Husain Shakil completed an Honors BSc at the University of Toronto, with a double major in Neuroscience and Immunology, as well as a minor in Mathematics. Husain is currently working on completing a Master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Steven Prescott at the Hospital for Sick Children. His research focuses on the effects of synaptic disinhibition on pain processing in the spinal cord. By developing computer models of spinal dorsal horn circuitry, Husain aims to uncover links between molecular level and network level changes that are associated with neuropathic pain. Establishing those links will help elucidate emergent properties affecting pain perception, how those properties become pathologically deranged, and how they can be restored via druggable targets.

 

UTCSP Trainee Scholarship Recipients 2014-2015

Joshua Cheng completed a Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree at the University of Western Ontario, with an honors in physiology. Joshua is currently in the second year of his Master’s studies under the supervision of Dr. Karen Davis at the Toronto Western Research Institute. His research focuses on how brain connectivity in individuals’ ascending nociceptive and descending pain modulatory systems are related to their perception of pain following repetitive noxious stimuli, termed temporal summation of pain. This work will expand on current knowledge of cortical mechanisms related to central sensitization, and aid in the identification of useful neural targets for pain therapy.

Marie-Andrée Coulombe completed her PhD studying the physiological causes underlying the higher prevalence of some chronic pain conditions in women compared to men, using animal models and clinical research. Her postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Karen Davis uses brain imaging to examine individual factors involved in pain variability. This work will provide insight into potential predisposition to develop chronic pain and a framework for therapeutic approaches for pain coping.

Chitra Lalloo completed her PhD at McMaster University in July 2014 under the supervision of Dr. James L. Henry. Her doctoral research focused on the development and validation of Pain-QuILT, a web-based tool for the assessment and tracking of sensory pain. In September 2014, Chitra started a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Jennifer Stinson at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her postdoctoral research focuses on the development and evaluation of iCanCope with Pain™, a Smartphone and web-based self-management program for adolescents and young adults with chronic pain. iCanCope with Pain™ will provide self-management therapy tailored to the needs of 15-25 year olds with chronic pain. This phased project includes program development, usability testing, and a pilot feasibility randomized controlled trial.

Josiane Mapplebeck completed her undergraduate studies at McGill University under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Mogil. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree with Dr. Michael Salter at the Hospital for Sick Children. Josiane is investigating sex differences in the spinal mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain. Previous preclinical experiments have indicated that microglia play an integral role in mediating neuropathic pain hypersensitivity. However, these experiments were conducted using only male rodents. Recent evidence indicates that neuropathic pain hypersensitivity in females is microglia-independent. Consequently, Josiane aims to delineate the female specific mechanisms responsible for neuropathic pain. This may aid in the future development of sex specific treatments for neuropathic pain.

 

UTCSP Trainee Scholarship Recipients 2013-2014

Faraj W Abdallah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesia, Faculty of Medicine, at the University of Toronto. He is a Clinician Investigator in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and a Staff Anesthesiologist at the St. Michael’s Hospital. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto.  He received her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, Doctor of Medicine, and Speciality in Anesthesiology degrees from the American University of Beirut. He completed fellowship training in Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Management at the Toronto Western Hospital and in Chronic Pain Management at the St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto.  His current clinical research interests are in the area of chronic pain management, the use of ultrasound-guided nerve blocks in the treatment of postsurgical pain, and the long term outcomes of perioperative pain management.

Marie-Andrée Coulombe completed a PhD studying the physiological causes underlying the higher prevalence of some chronic pain conditions in women compared to men using animal models and clinical research. Her postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Karen Davis will use brain imaging to examine pain variability. This work will provide insight into potential predisposition to develop chronic pain and a framework for therapeutic approaches for pain coping.

Ruma Goswami is a post-doctoral fellow working under the supervision of Dr. Karen Davis in the Division of Brain, Imaging and Behaviour — Systems Neuroscience. Peripheral nerve injuries (PNI) occur commonly in the workplace and are a major cause of disability. However, while some patients report sensorimotor problems/pain following surgery, others do not, leading to the hypothesis that the differences may reflect individual personality and neurophysiological factors. Thus, the aim of Ruma’s study is to determine whether pre-existing patient factors (i.e., catastrophizing, anxiety, structural brain abnormalities in gray and white matter) are associated with sensorimotor recovery and neuropathic pain following surgical repair. Longitudinal assessment of pre-existing personality traits and pre-surgical brain features may aid in understanding the development of chronic pain following surgery. It is Ruma’s hope that patients will benefit from tailored treatment options that may include psychological assessments and brain imaging to improve maladaptive brain plasticity and potentially prevent pain.

Erika Harding completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Chemistry at Dalhousie University. Erika is now a second year graduate student supervised by Dr. Michael Salter at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. Erika is researching the mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain, focusing on pain-relaying neurons in the spinal cord. Utilizing electrophysiological techniques and two-photon calcium imaging, she is investigating how neuronal communication and the signals sent between neurons changes after the induction of neuropathic pain. Her project focuses specifically on how calcium signalling in neurons is affected by neuropathic pain symptoms. Calcium acts as an important signalling ion in neurons, responsible for everything from neuronal memory to neuronal death. Erika hypothesizes that by understanding how calcium in pain-relaying neurons changes, we may be able to develop new drug targets for future therapies to treat neuropathic pain.

 

UTCSP Trainee Scholarship Recipients 2012-2013

Danielle DeSouza is a third year PhD student in the Institute of Medical Science/Neuroscience collaborative program, University of Toronto. Under the supervision of Drs. Karen Davis and Mojgan Hodaie, she studies patients with a chronic facial pain disorder, called trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Although TN affects a peripheral nerve, we recently demonstrated that these patients have structural abnormalities in brain areas involved in pain and its modulation. One intervention for TN, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery (GKRS), precisely delivers radiation to a portion of the trigeminal nerve. Since we currently do not understand the mechanisms underlying the analgesic effect of GKRS, the aim of my PhD project is to use structural MRI to delineate the neural correlates of pain relief in TN patients undergoing GKRS. Understanding how pain can be relieved may provide further insight into the mechanisms underlying this condition, which could help to improve current treatments and optimize patient outcomes.

Ruma Goswami is a post-doctoral fellow working under the supervision of Dr. Karen Davis in the Division of Brain, Imaging and Behaviour — Systems Neuroscience. Peripheral nerve injuries (PNI) occur commonly in the workplace and are a major cause of disability. However, while some patients report sensorimotor problems/pain following surgery, others do not, leading to the hypothesis that the differences may reflect individual personality and neurophysiological factors. Thus, the aim of Ruma’s study is to determine whether pre-existing patient factors (i.e., catastrophizing, anxiety, structural brain abnormalities in gray and white matter) are associated with sensorimotor recovery and neuropathic pain following surgical repair. Longitudinal assessment of pre-existing personality traits and pre-surgical brain features may aid in understanding the development of chronic pain following surgery. It is Ruma’s hope that patients will benefit from tailored treatment options that may include psychological assessments and brain imaging to improve maladaptive brain plasticity and potentially prevent pain.

Erika Harding completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Chemistry at Dalhousie University. Erika is now a first year graduate student supervised by Dr. Michael Salter in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. Erika will be researching neuropathic pain, focusing on pain-relaying neurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Utilizing electrophysiological techniques and calcium imaging, Erika will be investigating the protein Src, which has been shown to facilitate neuropathic pain. She hypothesizes that Src increases calcium concentration in these neurons, leading to hyperexcitability, which manifests as neuropathic pain. By also looking at the effects of Src antagonists on these neurons, this project will help confirm that Src changes neuronal behaviour in a biologically consistent manner. This will determine if Src represents a suitable pharmacological target for future therapies to treat neuropathic pain.

Mike Hildebrand completed his PhD in Neuroscience at UBC and then did an Industrial R & D Fellowship at Neuromed Pharmaceuticals, where he helped identify and characterize a novel class of ion channel blockers for the potential treatment of pain. In 2010, Mike joined Mike Salter’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow, with the goal of combining electrophysiological, biochemical and behavioural approaches to study spinal cord signaling mechanisms in animal models of chronic pain. Mike has found that two distinct neural signaling pathways linked to neuropathic pain are actually functionally connected, so that when the "brakes" are removed from spinal cord excitability (BDNF-mediated disinhibition) this acts to also "step on the gas" for neuronal output (facilitated excitation through NMDA receptors). Mike project is revealing new insights into the cellular mechanisms of neuropathic pain, creating potentially new approaches for the rational design of drugs to treat chronic pain in humans.

Grace Lee (RN, MSc) is a PhD student at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto and a research trainee at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute and the CIHR Pain in Child Health program. Grace is also a member of the UTCSP Knowledge Translation (KT) Sub-committee. Under the supervision of Dr. Bonnie Stevens, she plans to conduct an Institutional Ethnography of the pain management practices of Registered Nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This research will examine how pain management is coordinated by social relations and textual influences at the local and system levels. Study results will contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of pain practices in the NICU and inform the development of KT strategies in the future.

 

UTCSP Trainee Scholarship Recipients 2011-2012

Mike Hildebrand completed his PhD studying voltage-gated calcium channels in Terry Snutch’s laboratory at UBC. As an Industrial R & D Fellow, he went on to identify and characterize a novel class of ion channel blockers for the potential treatment of pain. Mike is now a postdoctoral fellow in Mike Salter’s laboratory and is combining behavioural and electrophysiological approaches to explore functional interactions between distinct spinal cord nociceptive signalling pathways.

Mary-Ellen Hogan is a pharmacist who has just completed a Master of Science at the University of Toronto with Dr Anna Taddio as her supervisor. Her thesis research was a randomized controlled trial that investigated tactile stimulation to reduce pain from immunization in infants. She has just begun a PhD and plans to conduct an economic analysis of a knowledge translation program for immunization pain management in infants.

Aaron Kucyi is a Master's student in the Institute of Medical Science at University of Toronto under the supervision of Karen Davis at Toronto Western Research Institute. He is researching the dynamic interactions between pain and attention, with a focus on the role of activity fluctuations in human brain networks. His work combines pain psychophysics (behavioural testing) with neuroimaging (structural and functional MRI) to provide insight into the mechanisms of spontaneous chronic pain.

Sheila O'Keefe-McCarthy is in the 5th year of a PhD in Nursing. Her doctoral dissertation examines the relationship of pain management, pain, and anxiety for Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) patients while awaiting transfer for urgent diagnostic cardiac catheterization. Sheila is an active trainee member on, the University of Toronto Centre for the Study of Pain involved in the U of T Interfaculty Pain Curriculum (IPC), and has recently completed her two year role as the national trainee representative on the Canadian Pain Society Executive Board of Directors for 2009-2011.

Qi Wu was an Anesthesiologist in China. He finished his PhD with Dr. James Henry at McMaster on mechanisms of osteoarthritis pain in 2010. His current postdoc research with Dr. Karen Davis is in mechanisms of pain and fatigue in Ankylosing Spondylistis patients. He is interested in clinical pain management.