Photo of Mary M. Heinricher, Ph.D.

Mary M. Heinricher Ph.D.

  • (503) 494-1135
    • Professor of Neurological Surgery School of Medicine
    • Associate Dean, Basic Research Office of the Dean School of Medicine
    • Vice Chair, Research Neurological Surgery School of Medicine
    • M.D./Ph.D. Program Committee School of Medicine

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.

In addition to the degrees listed below, Dr. Heinricher was a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, from 1983-86.

Dr. Heinricher holds joint faculty appointments in the Departments of Behavioral Neuroscience and Physiology and Pharmacology. Previous positions include 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, Ill. (1982-83).

Her non-academic interests include native plants and ethnobotany. 

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Education

  • B.A., University of Missouri, St. Louis Missouri 1977
  • Ph.D., Northwestern University, Evanston Illinois 1983

Publications

  • "Pain"   2008
  • "Circuitry underlying antiopioid actions of cholecystokinin within the rostral ventromedial medulla" Journal of Neurophysiology  2001
  • "Analgesia, antianalgesia, and hyperalgesia" Journal of Pain  1992
  • "Orphanin FQ/nociceptin" Life Sciences June 27 2003
  • "Interference with GABA transmission in the rostral ventromedial medulla" Neuroscience  1994
  • "Evidence for GABA-mediated control of putative nociceptive modulating neurons in the rostral ventromedial medulla" Somatosensory Research  1991
  • "The role of excitatory amino acid transmission within the rostral ventromedial medulla in the antinociceptive actions of systemically administered morphine" Pain May 1 1999
  • "α-Adrenergic receptor agonists, but not antagonists, alter the tail-flick latency when microinjected into the rostral ventromedial medulla of the lightly anesthetized rat" Brain Research November 19 1990
  • "Nocifensive reflex-related on- and off-cells in the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus, cuneiform nucleus, and lateral dorsal tegmental nucleus" Brain Research November 30 2005
  • "Disinhibition of off-cells and antinociception produced by an opioid action within the rostral ventromedial medulla" Neuroscience  1994
  • "Purinergic actions on neurons that modulate nociception in the rostral ventromedial medulla" Neuroscience June 8 2007
  • "Adaptations in responsiveness of brainstem pain-modulating neurons in acute compared with chronic inflammation" Pain June 2013
  • "Microinjection of morphine into nucleus reticularis paragigantocellularis of the rat suppresses spontaneous activity of nucleus raphe magnus neurons" Brain Research August 8 1983
  • "Neural basis for the hyperalgesic action of cholecystokinin in the rostral ventromedial medulla" Journal of Neurophysiology October 2004
  • "Central mechanisms of pain suppression"  November 1 2013
  • "Pain-facilitating medullary neurons contribute to opioid-induced respiratory depression" Journal of Neurophysiology November 1 2012
  • "Circuitry underlying antiopioid actions of orphanin FQ in the rostral ventromedial medulla" Journal of Neurophysiology December 1997
  • "Are opioid-sensitive neurons in the rostral ventromedial medulla inhibitory interneurons?" Neuroscience January 24 2008
  • "Operant conditioning of trigeminal nuclear evoked potentials" Brain Research Bulletin  1981
  • "Simultaneous analysis of the time course for changes in core body temperature, activity, and nociception following systemic administration of interleukin-1β in the rat" Brain Research January 23 2004
  • "Ronald Tasker Award" Neurosurgery  2005
  • "Deep brain stimulation does not silence neurons in subthalamic nucleus in Parkinson's patients" Journal of Neurophysiology February 2010
  • "A novel, non-invasive method of respiratory monitoring for use with stereotactic procedures" Journal of Neuroscience Methods August 15 2012
  • "Reflex-related activation of putative pain facilitating neurons in rostral, ventromedial medulla requires excitatory amino acid transmission" Neuroscience April 14 1997
  • "Morphine microinjected into the periaqueductal gray has differential effects on 3 classes of medullary neurons" Brain Research June 4 1986
  • "Identification of nocifensor reflex-related neurons in the rostroventromedial medulla of decerebrated rats" Brain Research February 4 1994
  • "Nociceptin/orphanin FQ" Life Sciences November 4 2005
  • "A simple device for humidification of inspired gases during volatile anesthesia in rats" Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science March 2005
  • "Analysis of excitatory amino acid transmission within the rostral ventromedial medulla" Pain January 1998
  • "Microinjection of morphine into nucleus reticularis paragigantocellularis of the rat" Brain Research December 16 1985

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