Robert Sorge (Award in Pain Recipient) earned his Honors B.Sc. in psychology from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, his M.A. in experimental psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, and his Ph.D. in psychology from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. He was a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University before joining the faculty at The University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2012. In addition to being named a Rita Allen Foundation Pain Scholar, he has received a Young Investigator Award from the Sex, Gender and Pain Special Interest Group of the International Association for the Study of Pain. He also has received postdoctoral fellowships from the Alan Edwards Center for Research on Pain at McGill and from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Obesity in America is reaching epidemic proportions, with more than one-third of the population classified as obese, and even more as overweight. In addition to the increased risk for metabolic syndromes and cardiovascular disease, obesity is also comorbid with chronic pain for a significant number of patients. It is known that adipose tissue and components of the American diet can contribute to a chronic proinflammatory state that may predispose individuals to significant negative health effects. Sorge and his collaborators believe that this state is the result of heightened activity of the immune system. Their previous work has shown that consumption of a Western diet results in changes in acute sensitivity to stimuli, increased systemic inflammation and prolonged recovery from injury. These effects are believed to be the result of chronic immune cell activation in the peripheral and central nervous system. Current work is underway to investigate the temporal profile of immune cell activation following differential exposure to the American diet in rodents. Through examination of the immune-related impact of diet, it may be possible to formulate treatments that will reduce the negative effects of the American diet with respect to pain and other related inflammatory conditions.