MSTP in PhD Training
Current advisor: Bryan Copits, PhD
Undergraduate university: University of Connecticut, 2017
Enrollment year: 2020
Brainstem responses to pain sensation and opioid analgesics
My research is focused on the questions of how the brain responds to acute and chronic pain, and how medications such as opioids interact with various circuits within the brain to alter this response. To do this, I am focusing on an area of the brainstem called the Rostral Ventromedial Medulla, or RVM, which acts as something of a relay station for pain sensation between the central nervous system and the periphery. Ultimately, I aim to discover how specifically this brainstem region responds to opioids, and how pain sensation and analgesia are affected if its ability to respond to opioids is inhibited.
To answer these questions, I am developing a novel technique which combines CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genetic manipulation with a method called Fos-TRAP, which allows for isolation of groups of neurons based on their activity in response to stimuli such as pain. In doing so, I will be able to delete the mu-opioid receptor specifically in pain-activated neurons in the RVM, which will allow me to determine the contribution of these neurons to pain sensation and opioid-mediated analgesia.