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The Gill Center for Biomolecular Science

Gill Seminars

Previous Speakers

Upcoming Speakers

February 2, 2015
A. Vania Apkarian, Ph.D.

Northwestern University School of Medicine

Seminar will be held in Psychology, Room 101 at 4:00 p.m.

Title: Transition to chronic pain: Predictors and consequences

Abstract: 1) I will review accumulating evidence regarding brain reorganization with chronic pain. Both human brain imaging studies as well as animal model studies specifically interrogating the role of supraspinal plasticity will be emphasized. The primary take home message is that the grey matter of the neocortex dynamically changes with chronic pain and this reorganization is pain type specific.

2) It is common clinical knowledge that although a very large patient population presents with similar injuries that give rise to pain, only a small minority of them develop chronic pain. Thus the critical question in the field of pain research is: what characteristics differentiate between those that develop chronic pain and the ones who properly recover from their injury into health. I will review the results from the only existing longitudinal brain-imaging based study, where brain anatomical and functional properties were studied as subjects transitioned from acute to chronic pain. One hundred and twenty sub-acute back pain patients (SBP, no back pain for at least one year and persistence of back pain for 4-12 weeks of an intensity of 5/10) were recruited and followed over one year, where repeated brain imaging and pain questionnaire outcomes were collected. Sixty-eight subjects completed the study. Different subgroups of these subjects were analyzed at various phases of the study to examine 1) brain grey matter reorganization and related functional properties, 2) brain white matter properties as predictors of pain chronification, 3) changes in brain activity reflecting back pain in the transition to chronic pain, 4) relationship between smoking and chronic pain. The primary result of these analyses is the important observation that very simple brain parameters accurately predict who will develop chronic pain and who will not. Both anatomical and functional properties seem critical.
 If time permits I will present an overall mechanistic model of the transition to chronic pain that summarizes the results presented in both lectures.

Overall we envision four distinct phases for transition from acute to chronic pain:

  1. Predisposition
  2. Injury or inciting event
  3. Transition
  4. Maintenance

Mechanisms underlying each of these phases are distinct. Phase 2 is primarily determined by nociceptive processes, while phase 1 seems mainly brain dependent,  for chronic back pain.

Reference papers:
Corticostriatal functional connectivity predicts transition to chronic back pain.
Baliki MN, Petre B, Torbey S, Herrmann KM, Huang L, Schnitzer TJ, Fields HL, Apkarian AV.
Nat Neurosci. 2012 Jul 1;15(8):1117-9.

A dynamic network perspective of chronic pain.
Farmer MA, Baliki MN, Apkarian AV.
Neurosci Lett. 2012 Jun 29;520(2):197-203.

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February 23, 2015
Michael R. Bruchas, Ph.D.

Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis

Seminar will be held in Psychology, Room 101 at 4:00 p.m.

Title: Dissecting Neural Circuits and GPCR Signaling in Stress Behavior

Abstract: Stress responses are largely controlled by specific neurotransmitters and their receptors in the central nervous system.  Many of these signals are conveyed through activation of both neuropeptide (i.e. CRF and Opioid) and monoamine (norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin) receptor systems.  These receptors are seven transmembrane spanning G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) and they can stimulate a variety of signaling cascades following neurotransmitter/neuropeptide release.  Neuropeptide and monoamine circuits are engaged by stress, and elicit a complex array of behavioral responses relevant to anxiety, addiction, and depression. Two neuropeptide systems of  major interest in stress responsivity include dynorphin opioid peptides and CRF. These systems and circuits have classically been studied using pharmacological approaches, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology and biochemical methods.  Here we will describe recent advances in optogenetic technology including development and implementation of cellular scale wireless optogenetic devices for in vivo behavioral measures.  In addition, we report divergence of behavioral responses using optical control of discrete brain region subnucleai containing dynorphin expressing neurons.  We find that optical control of this neuropeptide system in select regions results in differences in reward and aversion behavior.  Finally, we will also discuss recent advances in controlling various monoamine and peptide GPCR signaling pathways with optogenetic strategies and how these technologies reveal novel insights into neuromodulator function in stress-induced affective behavior.

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March 30, 2015
Susan Amara, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh

Seminar will be held in Psychology, Room 101 at 4:00 p.m.

Title: Pending

Abstract: Pending.

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April 6, 2015
Cheryl Conrad, Ph.D.

Arizona State University

Seminar will be held in Psychology, Room 101 at 4:00 p.m.

Title: Pending

Abstract: Pending.

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April 13, 2015
Charles E. Schroeder, Ph.D.

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Seminar will be held in Psychology, Room 101 at 4:00 p.m.

Title: Pending

Abstract: Pending.