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Several themes have guided his research including (a) the role of descending modulatory circuits in pain and migraine; (b) the intersection between pain and reward pathways; (c) the mechanisms by which opioids and stress engage descending modulatory circuits and (d) the discovery of molecules that can act within these circuits to provide initial research tools for mechanistic evaluation. They have recently addressed the preclinical assessment of pain in a way that may have increased translational relevance to aspects of the human pain experience. they have attempted to capture and mechanistically evaluate affective dimensions of pain, i.e., the unpleasant or aversiveness that is a fundamental component of all pain experiences.
Their approach has emphasized the motivational drive resulting from the unpleasantness of pain and the understanding that relief of pain is a reward. This principle has guided a series of experiments that have allowed us to address the mechanisms by which “pain relief” occurs. They have validated this approach using both clinically effective, and clinically ineffective treatments (i.e., reverse translation) and have confirmed that relief of pain engages the classical mesocorticolimbic reward circuit only in the presence of ongoing pain. This approach has been developed so that it may serve as a platform for discovery of new medications (forward translation) for treatment of pain and migraine.
Dr. Porreca has worked with models of cancer pain for many years and am continuing to work on the role of mediators that promote ongoing bone cancer pain in immunocompetent mice.