Functional connectomics of peripheral and central pain circuits
Chronic pain places a major burden on society due to its debilitating effects on patients and on national economies due to lost productivity (estimated at CA$40 billion in Canada). Current therapeutic options for chronic pain sufferers are limited and new approaches to managing chronic pain are needed. This requires an in-depth understanding about the processing of nociceptive (perception of pain) information in both the peripheral and central nervous systems.
Nerve injury can give rise to persistent changes in plasticity in both spinal cord and brain circuits that in turn lead to chronic pain. Although much progress has been made in understanding how nociceptive signals are transmitted and regulated, much less is known about how the brain is altered during chronic pain conditions, and how these changes in the pain axis contribute to the maintenance of chronic pain states.
This project will use a functional connectomics approach, which maps connections within the nervous system, involving different mouse models of neuropathic pain. This will be coupled with optogenetic (light) manipulation of brain circuits and behavioural assessments. It aims to test the innovative hypothesis that changes in the plasticity of the pain axis following chronic nerve injury leads to a persistent loss of pain modulation. Successful completion of this project will provide unparalleled insights into the processing of pain signals in the brain and may identify novel therapeutic avenues for intervention. Additionally, the project will provide a strong research environment, as well as capacity building and exchange opportunities for graduate students, clinicians, and researchers based in Brazil. The project is led in Canada by the University of Calgary, in collaboration with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, and Universidade Federal Do Parana in Brazil.
This project was selected for funding through the fourth research competition of the Joint Canada-Israel Health Research Program. This initiative is a partnership between IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Israel Science Foundation, and the Azrieli Foundation.