Steve Davidson (Award in Pain Recipient) earned a B.S. in psychology from the University of New Orleans and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Minnesota. He was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis from 2009 to 2014, and in 2015 he joined the faculty of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. In 2010, Davidson received a Future Leader in Pain Research award from the American Pain Society.
Pain has long been recognized as a multidimensional experience. Yet research has focused almost exclusively on the sensory dimension, leaving the emotional and motivational components poorly understood and undertreated. The Davidson lab seeks to elucidate and control a neural circuit responsible for regulating the capacity for pain tolerance, an aspect of pain behavior dependent on emotional and motivational pain processing that occurs in the brain. Davidson’s research tests the main hypothesis that effective pain control can be achieved by manipulating neural activity in a thalamo-limbic pathway to enhance pain tolerance. His laboratory has developed a novel operant behavioral model in which rodents may obtain a reward by engaging with (tolerating) a noxious thermal stimulus. Using this approach, analgesics with efficacy for improving the affective measure of pain tolerance vs. reflexive withdrawal may be determined. To determine whether thalamo-limbic projection neurons control pain, virally infected posterior thalamic neurons containing optically gated ion channels will allow direct control of activity through an implanted light source while animals are tested for changes to pain tolerance and reflexive behaviors. Finally, the Davidson lab will test the hypothesis that chronic pain alters synaptic plasticity in the thalamo-limbic circuit. This will include examination of posterior thalamic projection neurons for altered excitability and synaptic plasticity at the posterior thalamus-insula synapse in rodent models of neuropathic and inflammatory chronic pain.