Chronic pain is a maladaptive state that alters nervous system functioning. This results in aberrant and excitable neural networks that manifest in the form of spontaneous pain and the amplification of noxious and innocuous stimuli. Chronic pain modulates and is modulated by cognitive, emotional and mental states including attention, fear and stress. A large focus of my research is to understand the bidirectional interplay between stress and pain. If a person (or mouse) is stressed, simply put, the brain's ability to filter pain signals is affected in a bad way and pain can be amplified. Each one (pain and stress) can have an impact on the other, creating a vicious cycle that sets the stage for chronic pain and chronic stress.
Additionally, we find that processes such as empathy are negatively affected (in mice and humans) by increased social stress and another aspect of my research aims to dissect the underlying biological mechanisms of empathy and prosocial behaviours (using both animal and human subjects). Finally, I am also interested the negative effects that pain has on cognition (learning, memory, brain plasticity) and social interactions when pain is experienced or starts during different developmental time points (neonatal, adolescence, adulthood).