Allan Basbaum, PhD

Professor & Chair
Department of Anatomy
+1 415 476-4311
Research Description: 

Our laboratory examines the mechanisms through which tissue and nerve injury produce changes in the peripheral and central nervous system, resulting in persistent pain. In parallel studies we are examining the circuits through which pruritogens generate itch. These studies follow upon our recent work that defined mechanisms through which opioids that act at different receptor subtypes exert their pain relieving effects. The hallmark of our work is our laboratory’s multidisciplinary approach to the problem, using molecular, neuroanatomical, pharmacological and behavioral analyses in wild type and genetically modified mice. Many of these mice, including knockouts and Cre- or reporter-expressing mice are generated in our laboratory. To expand our analyses using our transgenic mouse in which wheat germ agglutinin transneuronal labeling of complex circuits can be triggered from neurons in any region of the brain or spinal cord, we now incorporate transneuronal anterograde (herpes) and retrograde (rabies) viral tracers in our circuit analyses. By combining these studies with the functional properties of the label neurons, these studies will examine the extent to which pain and itch circuits are segregated or convergent at the level of spinal cord interneurons and projection neurons. Most recently, we turned our attention to the possibility of overcoming the neurological consequences of peripheral nerve damage, by transplanting embryonic cortical GABAergic precursor cells into the spinal cord. We have demonstrated that the cells integrate into the host and can ameliorate the persistent pain and itch associated with nerve damage.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Research Summary: 
The Neurological Basis of Pain and Its Control



Hippocalcin-like 4, a neural calcium sensor, has a limited contribution to pain and itch processing.

PloS one

Alvaro CG, Braz JM, Bernstein M, Hamel KA, Craik V, Yamanaka H, Basbaum AI

Convergent neural representations of experimentally-induced acute pain in healthy volunteers: A large-scale fMRI meta-analysis.

Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews

Xu A, Larsen B, Baller EB, Cobb Scott J, Sharma V, Adebimpe A, Basbaum AI, Dworkin RH, Edwards RR, Woolf CJ, Eickhoff SB, Eickhoff CR, Satterthwaite TD

Dorsal root ganglion macrophages contribute to both the initiation and persistence of neuropathic pain.

Nature communications

Yu X, Liu H, Hamel KA, Morvan MG, Yu S, Leff J, Guan Z, Braz JM, Basbaum AI

Ablation of spinal cord estrogen receptor a-expressing interneurons reduces chemically-induced modalities of pain and itch.

The Journal of comparative neurology

Tran M, Braz JM, Hamel K, Kuhn J, Todd AJ, Basbaum AI

Spinal cord projection neurons: a superficial, and also deep, analysis.

Current opinion in physiology

Wercberger R, Basbaum AI