FacultyMark L Baccei, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor
Department of Anesthesiology
Although infants and children experience considerable pain as the result of injury, disease, surgery or intensive care therapy, pediatric pain remains under-treated and poorly understood. Efforts to design new, evidence-based treatments for chronic pediatric pain have been hampered by a lack of information regarding how neonatal pain circuits in the CNS respond to tissue damage at a cellular and molecular level. My lab is currently characterizing the short- and long-term consequences of tissue injury during early life for the function of developing synaptic networks in the superficial dorsal horn of the spinal cord, which serves as an important relay station in the pain pathway. Experimental approaches include in vitro electrophysiology in rodent spinal cord slices, immunohistochemistry, Western blotting, and behavioral measurements of pain sensitivity. It is our hope that by identifying age-specific changes in synaptic organization within central pain networks under pathological conditions, this work will yield new insight into the underlying basis for hyperalgesia during the early postnatal period and also help explain why neonatal tissue damage appears exclusively capable of altering pain perception throughout life.