Graduate Studies Faculty

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Sue A. Aicher, PhD

Admin Unit: SOM-Physiology & Pharmacology Department
Phone: 8-2550
Neuroscience Graduate Program
Physiology & Pharmacology
Program in Molecular & Cellular Biosciences
Research Interests:
pain, cardiovascular, trigeminal, opioids, glutamate receptors, immunocytochemistry, neuroanatomy, confocal microscopy, electron microscopy, neuroscience, synaptic plasticity, cellular » Click here for more about Dr. Aicher's research » PubMed Listing
Preceptor Rotations
Academic Term Available Summer 2016 Yes Fall 2016 Yes Winter 2016 Yes
Faculty Mentorship
Dr. Aicher is available as a mentor for 2016-2017.


Dr. Aicher earned her B.S. in physiological psychology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 1985 and her Ph.D. from The University of Iowa in 1989. From Iowa she moved to Cornell University Medical College to pursue postdoctoral work with Dr. Donald Reis. She was later appointed to the faculty at Cornell and was an Assistant Professor of Neurology & Neuroscience until she moved to OHSU in 2000. She is currently a Professor in the Physiology and Pharmacology Department.

Summary of Current Research

We are studying the cellular mechanisms underlying normal and pathophysiological function in both pain and autonomic reflex pathways, as well as addiction circuitry.  There are many parallels between the primary afferents that process nociceptive information and those that transmit autonomic information, the neurotransmitters contained in these afferents, and the receptors which regulate activity at each of these first sensory synapses. We are using a variety of techniques including tract tracing, dual-labeling immunocytochemistry, electron microscopy, behavioral and physiological measurements, and single unit activity in the brain.

We are examining the subcellular localization of neurotransmitters and receptors at specific synapses within neural pathways. The receptors studied include amino acid, peptide, adrenergic and opioid receptors; all of which are known to influence activity in these pathways. The cellular distribution of a receptor within a cell group provides important insights into the potential physiological responses to receptor ligands. 

An understanding of the normal localization of receptors within somatosensory and autonomic pathways is critical, but we are also interested in receptor plasticity in these systems.  These studies will contribute to the understanding of cellular mechanisms for plasticity in these neural systems and may influence clinical treatments for pain, hypertension and addiction.

Recent Publications

Aicher SA, Hegarty DM, Hermes SM (2014) Corneal pain activates a trigemino-parabrachial pathway in rats.  Brain Research, 1550: 18-26. 

Largent-Milnes TM, Hegarty DM, Aicher SA, Andresen MC (2014) Physiological temperatures drive glutamate release onto trigeminal dorsal horn neurons.  Journal of Neurophysiology, 111: 2222 - 31.

Hegarty DM, Hermes SM, Largent-Milnes TM, Aicher SA (2014) Capsaicin-responsive corneal afferents do not contain TRPV1 at their central terminals in trigeminal nucleus caudalis in rats.  Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, 61-62: 1 – 12.

Moldavan M, Cravetchi O, Williams M, Irwin RP, Aicher SA, Allen CN (2015)  Localization and expression of GABA transporters in the superchiasmatic nucleus.  Eur J Neurosci. 42: 3018-32.

Aicher SA, Hermes SM, Hegarty DM (2015) Denervation of the lacrimal gland leads to corneal hypoalgesia in a novel rat model of aqueous dry eye disease.  Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 56:  6981-6989.

Bobeck EN, Ingram SL, Hermes SM, Aicher SA, Morgan MM (2016) Ligand-biased activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 leads to differences in opioid induced antinociception and tolerance.   Behav Brain Res 298: 17 -24.

Hermes SM, Andresen MC, Aicher SA (2016) Localization of TRPV1 and P2X3 in unmyelinated and myelinated vagal afferents in the rat. J Chem Neuroanatomy, 72: 1-7.