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ARRA Investments in Head and Neck Pain

Public Health Burden
Pain is the most common reason for Americans to access the health care system, and over 75 million Americans suffer from pain, either chronic or acute. In addition to the suffering and reduced quality of life of affected individuals and their families, pain exacts an economic burden. The economic burden of pain approaches $100 billion per year in lost productivity and medical expenses.

Basic Research
Though pain research has dramatically advanced in the past 40 years, scientific discoveries have yet to be fully reflected in improvements in patient care. One of the research challenges is that acute and chronic pain may have different biological or physiological causes and thus treatment for acute pain will be different than treatment for chronic pain. Some pain is alleviated by analgesics, but there are not effective treatments to completely resolve all chronic pain conditions. Most current pharmaceutical and behavioral therapies for chronic pain focus on the symptoms but do not target underlying biological, molecular, or cellular mechanisms. Therefore, effective prevention and treatment of chronic pain remains elusive.

Basic research to explore the mechanisms of acute pain and the transition from acute to chronic pain provides our best opportunities to prevent and treat chronic pain conditions.  ARRA funds support basic research on the causes and potential treatment of pain that occurs in and around the head and face.
  • One award provides the opportunity to establish a novel animal model to further the study of the transition from acute to chronic pain. This model will allow researchers to pursue the hypothesis that the chronic pain state involves an initial painful event followed by a subsequent over-activation, which is mediated by glial cells. This model is also critical for the development of pharmacological approaches to prevent the activation of glial cells, thus possibly preventing the transition to chronic pain.1
  • One project is focused on developing novel methods to silence specific brain regions to examine changes in pain circuitry and pain behaviors, including affective and cognitive aspects of pain sensation, in awake, behaving animals. This study will provide important details on how the entire pain circuitry contributes to the pain phenotype, allowing for better modeling of human chronic pain.2

  1. 1RC1DE020247-01 -- Models and mechanisms for the transition of acute-to-chronic orofacial pain -- Watkins, Linda -- (CO)
  2. 1RC2DE020919-01 -- Modulating Cortical and Sub-cortical Brain Circuits in Chronic Facial Pain -- Boyden, Edward S. -- (MA)

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