Sarah Ross (Award in Pain Recipient) earned her B.Sc. from the University of Western Ontario and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, both in physiology. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, where she worked with Michael Greenberg. She joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. In addition to the Rita Allen Foundation, she has received support for her work from the National Institutes of Health.
The spinal cord plays a critical role in processing somatosensory information. To study these spinal microcircuits, the Ross lab has developed a novel somatosensory preparation that allows recording from the output neurons (via retrograde labeling of spinal projection neurons) while controlling somatosensory input (via natural stimulation of the skin) and simultaneously manipulating activity of specific populations of spinal interneurons (via the combination of Cre alleles and optogenetics). Using this physiological preparation, the Ross lab is addressing long-standing questions in the field of somatosensation, such as: How is itch distinguished from pain? Why does scratching relieve itch? and How does pain become abnormally amplified upon injury?