The Pain TRAIL

Pain Trail Pathway header image
Pain Trail Pathway header image

Translational Research in Assessment & Intervention Lab

Our scientific pursuits are specific to investigating the interactive influences of biological, psychosocial, cognitive, and behavioral factors associated with chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions with an emphasis on stress, aging, health disparities, and resilience. 

The intentions underlying our investigations are to:

  1. Elucidate biological measures reflecting the stress-related biological burden resulting from chronic pain conditions
  2. Delineate resilience and vulnerability factors for prevention and treatment
  3. Identify and investigate bio-behavioral strategies that optimize and/or serve as effective interventions in the treatment of chronic pain  

Educational Efforts

PROPEL: Promoting Research and Optimizing Pain-Related Evidence-Based Learning

Educational efforts are focused on facilitating multidisciplinary, collaborative relationships; scholarly productivity; and clinical/translational pain research training. The overarching intentions and targeted outcomes of PROPEL are to increase medical students, residents, and faculty involvement in clinical-translational pain research; enhance the ability to evaluate research findings; and promote the translation of evidence into clinical practice.

Overall Laboratory Goals

Our goals are to contribute to the research and medical community by improving the assessment of and appreciation for the biological impression of chronic pain, formulating a clinical composite for assessing and evaluating treatment interventions, and identifying strategies and targets to prevent, reduce, or ameliorate chronic pain

Deciphering the Code

Characterizing the severity of chronic pain is essential in order to interpret the biological interface of chronic pain and related psychosocial and biobehavioral risk and resilience factors. Our research aims to measure the biological interface of chronic pain and associations with health outcomes such as physical and cognitive functioning. 

Biological Burden

Our research aims to identify biological measures of system burden in individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain and establish a clinical composite that can be used in patient care to evaluate the burden of chronic pain and assess changes resulting from clinical interventions.

Evaluating the Neurobiological Interface of Pain

Our research focuses on understanding the complex relationships between chronic pain, resilience, and the brain with consideration for sociodemographic factors.
People don’t come preassembled but glued together by life. Each time one of us is constructed, a different result occurs. LeDoux, (2002, p.3)

Investigating the Role of Dispositional Traits

Dispositional traits are notable at birth, observable across all mammals, and are neurobiologically based. Predictive of behavior and mental and physical health conditions, dispositional traits are also associated with clinical pain experiences and pain-related functioning. Our research investigates the  influence of dispositional traits on chronic pain and health outcomes. Individualizing interventions based on temperament represents an important target to improve treatment compliance. Temperament is malleable across the life-span, and interventions that aim at modifying specific traits represent a critical and essential target to improve chronic pain treatment.

Delineating Resilience in Chronic Pain

isk factors represent well-traveled paths in pain research. Resilience factors in chronic pain represent important targets on less traveled paths. Our research focus on identifying and measuring biobehavioral and psychosocial resilience factors. There are a number of recognized risk factor indexes. One initiative under way is the development of a clinically relevant resilience index.

Strategies to Bolster Treatment and Reduce Chronic Pain

There is an increased need for non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatments for chronic musculoskeletal pain. Informed by our research investigations of biobehavioral and psychosocial protective factors, our research focuses on strategies with potential to optimize pain treatments and to increase the learning and memory of health promoting experiences.

Understanding the Complex Array of Factors Contributing to Disparities in Chronic Pain

Improving our understanding of factors contributing to disparities in chronic musculoskeletal pain will require investigations at all levels of analyses from environmental to biological. Additionally, research capturing risk and resilience factors and exploring similarities as well as differences is essential moving forward.

Reciprocal Translation: Research Benefiting Horses and Humans

Horses and humans have much in common. Horses provide an excellent model to investigate: 1) temperament; 2) evidence-based strategies to promote learning, memory, and behavior change; 3) the benefits of positive reinforcement; and 4) approaches to promote more optimal behavior in those with vulnerable traits. Horses, humans, and the horse/human relationship will benefit from an improved understanding informed by science.


Current Funding

Work in our lab is generously supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Previous Funding 

Previous funding includes the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (K23); the International Association for the Study of Pain/Scan/Design Foundation by Inger & Jens Bruun Funding; the University of Florida Pain Research & Intervention Center of Excellence, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Institute on Aging Pilot Grant; the University of Florida Clinical and Translational Science Institute Patient-Oriented Pilot Award; the University of Florida Clinical and Translational Science Institute KL2; the American Pain Society-Sharon S. Keller Chronic Pain Research Grant; the American Pain Society Future Leaders in Pain Research Grant; and the UF CTSI Pilot and Collaborative Research Projects – Major Initiatives