Big Questions in Pain Research

Big Questions in Pain Research

“What should I work on?”

This is one of the most important questions that any researcher can ask him/herself. We all want to work on things that are meaningful and that shed new light on significant areas of science.

For new entrants into the field, a large part of the battle is figuring out what the important unsolved questions are. Such insight comes usually with a lot of reading and learning from more senior researchers, but this is a slow process.

It’d be very useful to have a running list of what the big questions are in pain research. Of course this is a highly subjective thing, and each person will have a different perspective. But hopefully, by compiling those questions here publicly, we can create some direction for pain researchers. This topic is partly inspired by similar lists in other related fields, like:

So what are the big questions in pain research?

To help organize the list a little, I suggest that you preface your question with some qualifying categories, like “basic”, “clinical”, “translational”, “pain psychology” or things like that.

As the discussion grows, I’ll compile the questions and pin them near the top as one big list.

To get us started, here is my question:

Basic, Molecular/Cellular Neuroscience
What is the complete set of neurons and neuronal circuits in the nervous system (CNS and PNS) that is involved in pain perception?

OK. Now Discuss :slight_smile:

Here’s a big question in pain research:

Translational, Evolutionary Biology
A recent study in squid suggests that chronic pain (at least the hypersensitivity) may actually have a function: it produces hypervigilance. Is this true in mammals?

@jmogil Good question Jeff! Is chronic pain just an aberration that arises from a normally useful system, or does this phenomenon persist because it has some utility? We’ll have to find out.
Thanks for participating.

Perhaps another question may be…
Is pain linked to inflammation a result of an “overactive” immune system or an inability to resolve inflammation? Or is it a little bit of both depending on the type of inflammatory pain?

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Good question @janehartung!

How do (or do) chronic pain mechanisms differ from acute pain mechanisms, and is this the reason why we can’t find good treatments for chronic pain conditions?