Pain & Opioids

The Scherrer Lab investigates the mechanisms that underlie pain and its control by opioids. We study both the sensory and emotional dimensions of pain perception, and how opioids act in neural circuits to produce pain relief and their deleterious side effects such as tolerance, addiction and respiratory depression. Our goal is to discover novel treatments that block pain more efficiently, and without significant side effects, compared to current medications.

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To resolve pain and opioid mechanisms comprehensively, at the genetic, molecular, cellular, neural circuit, and behavioral levels, our multidisciplinary research combines molecular and cellular biology, neuroanatomy, electrophysiology, opto-/chemo-genetics, in vivo calcium imaging and behavioral experiments. The neuroanatomical images above show that we study pain and opioid mechanisms across the entire nervous system, from sensory neurons in nerves, to the neurons that transmit pain information in the spinal cord, as well as the brain neurons that generate pain negative emotions.