Mary M Heinricher, Ph.D.

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The interest of this laboratory is on brainstem mechanisms involved in pain modulation. Our focus is on opioid-sensitive circuits within the rostral ventral medulla, which is a crucial element in a pain-modulating network with links in the midbrain, medulla and spinal cord. This network contributes to the variability in pain sensitivity seen in different situations (for example under conditions of fear or extreme stress), and it is an important substrate for opioids and other analgesic drugs such as cannabinoids. We use single cell recording in combination with pharmacological tools to analyze how this system is activated, and we have identified two distinct classes of pain modulating neurons. ON cells are directly sensitive to opioids, and we recently showed that these neurons facilitate nociceptive transmission. OFF-cells exert a net inhibitory effect on nociception, and we were able to demonstrate that disinhibition of these neurons is central to the antinociceptive actions of opioids within the medulla. Currently, we are interested in identifying neurotransmitters that activate these two cell classes differentially to promote or suppress pain. We are also interested in how this modulatory system is activated under physiological conditions, and are looking at the inputs from limbic forebrain structures such as the hypothalamus to the rostral ventral medulla in an attempt to investigate this issue.PREVIOUS POSITIONSProfessor, Behavioral Neuroscience, OHSU, Portland, Ore (2006-present) Vice-chairman research, Neurological Surgery, OHSU, Portland, Ore (2005 -present) Professor, Depts. of Neurological Surgery, and Physiology and Pharmacology, OHSU, Portland, Ore (2001 -present) Associate Professor, Depts. of Neurological Surgery, and Physiology and Pharmacology, OHSU, Portland, Ore (1995-2001) Adjunct Assistant Professor of Neurophysiology, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, Calif (1987-1995) Research Associate, Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, Calif (1986-87) Instructor, Department of Psychology, Division of Continuing Education, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (1982-83) EDUCATIONPostdoctoral Fellow Neuroscience, Univ. California San Francisco, Calif (1983-86) Ph.D., Neuroscience, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (1983) B.A., Psychology, University of Missouri, St. Louis, Miss (1977) NON-ACADEMIC INTERESTSNative plants, ethnobotany

Selected Publications

"Neuropeptide Y in the rostral ventromedial medulla reverses inflammatory and nerve injury hyperalgesia in rats via non-selective excitation of local neurons," Neuroscience (Vol: 271, Page 149-159) - 2014

"Adaptations in responsiveness of brainstem pain-modulating neurons in acute compared with chronic inflammation," Pain (Vol: 154, Issue: 6, Page 845-855) - 2013

"Deep brain stimulation entrains local neuronal firing in human globus pallidus internus," Journal of Neurophysiology (Vol: 109, Issue: 4, Page 978-987) - 2013

"The dorsomedial hypothalamus mediates stress-induced hyperalgesia and is the source of the pronociceptive peptide cholecystokinin in the rostral ventromedial medulla," Neuroscience (Vol: 238, Page 29-38) - 2013

"A novel, non-invasive method of respiratory monitoring for use with stereotactic procedures," Journal of Neuroscience Methods (Vol: 209, Issue: 2, Page 337-343) - 2012



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