Our body translates complex environmental cues into action to keep us out of dangerous situations, a process called nociception. The spinal cord dorsal horn is a key actor in this process: it integrates multimodal sensory information from afferents innervating the skin and organs, shapes this information and sends it to the appropriate downstream circuits to generate appropriate responses. This well-oiled machine goes awry in pathological pain syndromes, leading to heightened and inappropriate pain responses. Different nociceptive modalities (heat, cold, pressure, etc.) are often affected differently among patients, even if they’re affected by the same pathology. Current analgesics strategies are insufficient in many cases to manage this vast array of symptoms and often come with many unwanted side effects. Understanding how the dorsal horn integrates different sensory modalities could uncover common pathways that could be used for more efficient treatment.
My interests are to study how inhibition keeps circuits of the dorsal horn in check, how this fails in neuropathic pain, a type of pathological pain originating from damage to the nervous system, and how this can be restored to manage the different modalities of neuropathic pain. I’m also interested in studying the role of newly identified neuronal populations in nociceptive processing of different modalities. I’m using a range of sensory behaviors in combination with optogenetics to elucidate these questions.
Ferrini F, Perez-Sanchez J, Ferland S, Lorenzo LE, Godin AG, Plasencia-Fernandez I, Cottet M, Castonguay A, Wang F, Salio C, Doyon N, Merighi A, De Koninck Y (2020) Differential chloride homeostasis in the spinal dorsal horn locally shapes synaptic metaplasticity and modality-specific sensitization. Nature Communications 11.