Research and Education Highlights

Increase in α5 subunit–containing GABAA receptor function impairs memory after anesthesia

Posted on 23-02-2015 —

The laboratory of Dr. Beverley Orser has found a potential mechanism underlying memory impairment resulting from anesthesia exposure. Patients who receive general anesthesia frequently experience memory and cognitive deficits which last for a period of days to months. The authors have found that increased expression of α5 subunit–containing GABAA receptors contribute to the memory deficits resulting from exposure to GABAtargeting anesthetics.


Illustrating the consequences of knee symptoms in younger adults

Posted on 23-02-2015 —

UTCSP member Aileen Davis and her colleagues are responding to the call for earlier screening and intervention for young adults with osteoarthritis (OA), for whom the disease may be at an early stage with reversible or preventable structural changes.  The team recently reported on the consequences of knee symptoms (predominantly due to OA) in the daily lives of younger people, since a clear picture of the disease's effects on young people is necessary for supportive intervention.


Male Scent Stresses out Rodents and Produces Analgesia

Posted on 02-10-2014 —

Researchers at McGill University and the University of Toronto have found evidence indicating that olfactory exposure to males causes stress in rodents. Stress induced analgesia occurs when a stressful stimulus reduces a pain response. The authors demonstrate that the presence of a 'male scent'- including male researchers, shirts worn by a male as well as presentation of compounds secreted from males produces stress induced analgesia.


A Tipping Point for Neuropathic Pain Research

Posted on 24-07-2014 — Finding new treatments for neuropathic pain has thus far proved to be incredibly difficult. Many newly developed treatments in animal models have proved ineffective when translated to humans, or failed due to undesirable side effects. Dr. Stephanie Ratte from Steven Prescott’s Lab at the Hospital for Sick Children proposes in novel research why this may be the case.
A two-photon image taken from a lamina I neuron that was filled with lucifer yellow (0.1%, green) during whole-cell recording.

GluN2B and GluN2D NMDA receptors dominate synaptic responses in the spinal cord

Posted on 14-04-2014 — Recent research by the Salter lab at The Hospital for Sick Children has demonstrated that excitatory synaptic transmission of lamina I neurons in the spinal cord of rats differs significantly from the rest of the CNS.  The authors show that synaptic responses in lamina I neurons tend to be more prolonged than synaptic responses elsewhere in the CNS.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy reduces our pain experience

Posted on 14-04-2014 — Researchers Dr. Tim Salomons, Dr. Massieh Moayedi, Dr. Nathalie Erpelding, and Dr. Karen Davis, at Toronto Western Hospital have uncovered empirical evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive training in reducing pain. Cognitive behavioural therapy is often used to help chronic pain patients develop coping mechanisms to deal with excessive pain symptoms. The authors found that developing coping mechanisms not only helps people manage pain, but actually reduces the unpleasantness of the pain experience.

Understanding Pain in the Brain - UTCSP Cross-Talks

Posted on 13-01-2014 — The first Cross-Talks seminar of the year was held on January 9, 2014 in the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning. Cross-talks are multidisciplinary seminars co-hosted by the Centre for Brain and Mental Health and the University of Toronto Center for the Study of Pain (UTCSP). This cross-talk focused on pain in the vulnerable brain.
Dr. Karen Davis and Dr. Tim Salomons

Combining Brain Imaging Technologies and Behavioural Studies to Better Understand Pain

Posted on 03-01-2014 — Dr. Karen Davis is a senior scientist and heads the Division of Brain, Imaging & Behaviour Systems at Toronto Western Research Institute. She is cross-appointed as a professor in the Department of Surgery and the associate director for the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. Dr. Tim Salomons is one of her post-doctoral fellows. Together they are combining their expertise in MR-based technologies and behavioural and psycho-physical studies to better understand pain.

Mind Wandering Engages Pain-Relieving Pathways in the Brain

Posted on 03-12-2013 — Everyone has experienced instances of their mind wandering away from tasks at hand. Recent evidence from UTCSP trainee Aaron Kucyi, in Dr. Karen Davis’ lab at Toronto Western Hospital, demonstrates that our minds wander even during pain, and that this is associated with increased engagement of pain-relieving pathways.

Novel Role of Gap Junctions Identified in Trigeminal Neuropathic Pain

Posted on 03-12-2013 — This study provides the first evidence indicating a role of gap junctions in trigeminal neuropathic pain. Whether these gap junctions are specific to glia requires further investigation. Given that carbenxolone is already used for the clinical treatment of ulcers, it has the potential to be a safe and effective drug for the clinical treatment of trigeminal neuropathic pain. Therefore, investigation of the efficacy of carbenxolone in treating pain in humans is necessary.

Understanding gender differences on the economic and psychological burden of chronic pain

Posted on 01-10-2013 — The Canadian STOP-PAIN project is a coalition of clinicians, nurses, and researchers from all over Canada, including UTCSP member Dr. Philip Peng, that conduct multidisciplinary research utilizing patients from all member hospitals and centers with the goal of better helping and treating patients with chronic pain. In this study, the STOP-PAIN project investigators looked at gender differences in the perception of reported pain, as well as impact on psychological well-being. The investigators also looked at differences in gender on the economic burden of chronic pain and its treatment. 

A better understanding of Trigeminal Neuralgia through UTCSP trainee research

Posted on 01-10-2013 — A new article by UTCSP trainee member Danielle DeSouza (supervised by Dr. Karen Davis and Dr. Mojgan Hodaie) sheds light on broad changes occurring across the brain in patients with trigeminal neuralgia

How the brain handles pain during multitasking

Posted on 01-08-2013 —  A new study from the lab of Karen Davis at UTCSP shows that when faced with pain, individuals who prioritize their current task performance over pain can be distinguished from those who do not, based on brain structure and function. The work may give insight into pain coping strategies that predict an individual’s vulnerability to develop chronic pain or their response to an analgesic treatment.

New Collaborative Research Study Determines the Needs of Young Adults Suffering From Chronic Pain

Posted on 01-08-2013 — A new study involving a collaboration between several hospitals in Toronto, McMaster University, and the University of Toronto has demonstrated that young adults suffering from chronic pain need more access to information and services to help guide self-treatment. The authors used focus groups to ask patients between the ages of 18-29 with chronic pain about the information and services that they have access to currently, and barriers that prevented further access to care. The study also encompassed access to medications and therapies for the patients, and the impact of pain on the patients’ everyday lives.

University of Toronto Researchers Provide Evidence That Pregabalin Treats Craniofacial Neuropathic Pain

Posted on 03-06-2013 — New research supervised by Dr. Jonathan Dostrovsky and Dr. Barry Sessle is demonstrating that the neuropathic pain treatment Pregabalin is also effective at treating mechanical allodynia (pain due to normal non-painful stimuli) and hypersensitivity due to craniofacial neuropathic pain.

New collaborative research involving UTCSP members suggests that it is possible to abolish side effects of morphine without interfering with its analgesic effects.

Posted on 01-05-2013 — Opioids, such as morphine, are widely used to treat pain. Unfortunately a problematic side effect of opioids is hyperalgesia, which paradoxically involves an amplified sense of pain. New research suggests that it is possible to abolish morphine-induced hyperalgesia without interfering with analgesic effects in mice.

Commentary by lead author Simon Beggs on his recent paper: Beggs S, Alvares D, Moss A, Currie G, Middleton J, Salter MW, Fitzgerald M. "A role for NT-3 in the hyperinnervation of neonatally wounded skin" Pain 2012 Oct;153(10):2133-9.

Posted on 08-01-2013 — UTCSP resesearchers have identified a possible mechanism by which early-life injuries can result in subsequent pain.  The study, published in the October 2012 issue of Pain, was conducted by Dr. Simon Beggs in collaboration with researchers at Sickkids Hospital and University College London, UK.

Slow moves to battle body pain

Posted on 24-09-2010 — The ancient Chinese martial art is being enlisted by modern medicine to battle the effects of chronic pain, cancer and cancer treatments, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis and other conditions that can severely limit mobility.

Marijuana effective in reducing pain, study shows

Posted on 24-09-2010 — A team of Montreal researchers has lent scientific credibility to the view that smoking marijuana can ease chronic neuropathic pain and help patients sleep better.

Women may adapt faster to pain than men

Posted on 02-10-2009 — Some research has hinted that women are more sensitive to pain than men are, but a new study suggests that women actually get over their discomfort more quickly.