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Research Projects

salt waterSaltwater Study

The purpose of this current study is to explore basic taste perception in humans. We use subjective rating methods and brain imaging to study the perceptual characteristics of taste and brain processes that cause them. By so doing we hope to obtain new information and understanding of how humans perceive essential nutrients

Brain Structural Biomarkers of Risk and Resilience to Pain Chronification (NIH-R01NS126451)

Chronic pain has a staggering economic cost and causes huge suffering to individuals. Once pain is chronic it is very hard to reverse and, hence, the best strategy to prevent chronic pain is early identification and treatment of high-risk individuals. This application aims to identify structural gray and white matter biomarkers of risk and resilience to pain chronification after the onset of low-back pain by testing specific hypotheses based on existing knowledge of chronic pain and the brain while at the same time addressing the influence of sex and types of clinical presentations (i.e., presence or absence of sciatica).

Quantitative Language and Facial Expression Phenotyping of Chronic Pain (NIH-R01AR080627)

Chronic pain is still a clinical diagnosis not based on objective and quantitative measures, which results in a large variability in patients’ classification often even under the same condition and hampers clinical care and scientific research. By drawing a parallel between chronic mental illness and chronic pain, this proposal aims to study the validity of quantitative language processing and audio-visual data analysis in discriminating between different types of chronic pain patients and in predicting response to treatment to derive quantitative and reliable biomarkers for chronic pain. 

Brain Mechanisms of Chronic Low-Back Pain: Specificity and Effects of Aging and Sex (NIH-R01NS127901)

Chronic pain is still a clinical diagnosis because no mechanistic quantitative, objective, and reliable measures exist to assist in diagnosis and classification of this condition. Such measures will further our understanding of the pathophysiology of different chronic pain syndromes, help clinicians make informed decisions and improve clinical care, and provide highly needed quantitative measures to be used in clinical trials of novel analgesics. In this proposal, we test whether the brain signature of chronic low-back pain is specific to low-back pain or generalizable to other chronic musculoskeletal conditions like knee arthritis pain or neuropathic chronic pain, or other chronic negative affective conditions like major depressive disorder, and whether this neural signature is modulated by patients’ age or sex.