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Richard J Traub, PhD

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Neural & Pain Sciences

The overall goal of my lab is to study how the nervous system processes information about pain from visceral organs in healthy individuals and following injury or disease using animal models of visceral pain syndromes. We have two major projects underway. First, we are interested in the sex differences and how gonadal hormones modulate pain arising from the viscera. It is well known that women are more prone to irritable bowel syndrome than men and it has been reported that symptoms fluctuate with the menstrual cycle. We are examining the role of specific gonadal hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and receptor subtypes on visceral sensitivity. We are examining how these hormones modulate synaptic function in the spinal cord, looking specifically at excitatory amino acid receptors.

In addition to irritable bowel syndrome, many other chronic pain syndromes are more prevalent in women (e.g., temporomandibular disorder, fibromyalgia, migraine, painful bladder syndrome). Epidemiological studies have shown that greater than 50% of patients with one condition have multiple conditions, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. We have developed an animal model to study mechanisms underlying comorbidity between temporomandibular disorder and irritable bowel syndrome. Stress and estrogen appear to play a significant role in generating and maintaining these overlapping pain conditions. We are currently examining changes in gene expression that contribute to this overlap.