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Graduate Neuroscience Program



Kristen Smith

My research project in Dr. Woodbury's lab focuses on nociceptors, the sensory neurons that are ultimately responsible for the perception of pain. The sensitivity of nociceptors can change, depending on chemical factors in the area. One example of this is a sunburn; things that normally wouldn't hurt can be very painful under sunburnt conditions. Using genetically-encoded calcium indicators and an in vivo mouse  preparation, mechanical, thermal and chemical responses of individual sensory neurons innervating skin and muscle are imaged and characterized. Changes in sensitivity due to peripheral inflammation, muscle fatigue, etc. are measured, and "silent" nociceptors that gain sensitivity de novo are identified. My goal is to provide insight that will aid in the development of better pain management therapies. 


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