The candidate's career goal is to become an independent clinical investigator in the biopsychosocial factors of pain following debilitating injuries, particularly identifying novel treatment approaches targeting neuropathic pain (NP) following spinal cord injury (SCI). To meet this goal, the candidate proposes a career development plan with emphasis on training in the biopsychosocial facets of pain, hands-on training using state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques, and didactics in advanced multivariate statistical approaches, such as high dimensional data reduction that can accommodate the unique challenges presented by pain neuroimaging. A highly accomplished team of investigators with proven track records as mentors will oversee the candidate's career development. The research component of this project addresses two prominent gaps: 1) the field remains limited in its understanding of predictors of neuropathic pain development following SCI and its pathophysiology, and this has precluded successful endeavors to find satisfactory avenues of treatment, and 2) while the biopsychosocial model is hailed as ideal, there has been no study that fully integrates the multiple domains involved in clinical SCI pain research. This proposed project will therefore utilize a combination of psychological, physiological, and neurologic variables to determine which of these factors are associated with the development of SCI-related NP.
The aims of the study are to: 1) determine the effects of psychological functioning pre-injury and acutely following SCI on SCI-related NP;2) identify relationships between neural markers for somatosensory cortical reorganization and SCI-related NP outcomes within two years of SCI;and 3) examine cortical structural and functional resting state measures and determine correlations with SCI-related NP outcomes within two years of SCI. This project will greatly enhance our understanding of the complex biopsychosocial factors involved in the development of NP following SCI, and will provide critical training for Dr. Richardson's development as an independent clinical investigator.

Public Health Relevance

Neuropathic pain remains a significant problem for many persons following spinal cord injury, and currently available treatments remain suboptimal in their clinical effectiveness. A major barrier to advancing clinical treatment is the limited understanding of factors associated with the development of neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury;therefore, in this application the PIs seek to discover novel psychological, biologica and neuroanatomical factors, such as cortical plasticity, and their interactions associated with neuropathic pain development following spinal cord injury. Identification of such predictors will advance our understanding of causal mechanisms which in turn will lead to new treatments, and potentially prevention, of neuropathic pain in persons with spinal cord injury.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
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Developmental Biology Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
Quatrano, Louis A
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University of Alabama Birmingham
Physical Medicine & Rehab
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Eick, John; Richardson, Elizabeth J (2015) Cortical activation during visual illusory walking in persons with spinal cord injury: a pilot study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 96:750-3