Pain is a complex subject and draws upon ideas and methods from many other areas of science and the humanities. And so, entering into the field can be a daunting task for anyone. I’ve spent the last 3 years as a graduate student trying to educate myself on the basics. I didn’t have any neuroscience training previously, so in addition to learning the specifics of pain research, I also needed to get the foundations of neuroscience under my belt. Below are my suggestions for some of the most helpful resources that I’ve used to learn about pain. These recommendations are targeted to primarily to those studying pain from a molecular/cellular perspective, although clinical pain researcher will find much of value here too.
I invite you to share your suggestions for useful resources for new entrants to the field in the thread below.
- Neuroscience Online: This is a well-done, accessible and free online textbook for neuroscience. If you’re new to neuroscience or need to review important concepts this is a great place to start.
- MCB80x: Fundamentals of Neuroscience (Harvard edX): An innovative, engaging, modern and informative MOOC from Harvard. The videos and presentations are unmatched, going outside the lecture hall to the forefront of modern neuroscience. This is also an excellent place to start to either learn or review the basics.
Neuroscience research draws upon the experimental techniques from so many fields. Accordingly, it can be really difficult to get a handle on all the tools that one can use to address a question. This unique book is the answer, bringing together all the diverse methods into one highly accessible book. Great for advance undergrads or beginning grad students. I read this cover to cover when I first joined a pain lab for my graduate work. This should be one of the first books you read when starting pain research. Even the veteran researcher will find something valuable here.
Written by a luminary of pain research, this is an entertaining and engaging book about pain. This is not a textbook, but rather a beautifully written narrative taking the reader through a journey across all aspects of pain perception. It’s made for a general audience, but for that reason it is one of the best places to start for anyone entering the pain field. Rather than going right into molecules or cells, it take a high-level view at the big concepts of pain, weaving aspects of philosophy, cognitive science, molecular/cellular neurobiology, physiology, psychology and medicine to provide an encompassing story about pain. Read this first!
What more can you say? This is the canonical text of the field. Just about everything you want to know about pain research can be found in these pages. I find this to be a good reference resource that should be read only when/if you have a good handle on neuroscience basic principles and techniques. Because it is authored by many people, there isn’t a coherent voice or thread that ties the chapters together. They’re self-contained units. So that’s why I recommend reading chapters as needed. But, if you’re so inclined, the first fourteen chapters are basic principles and do a good job of bringing one up to speed on the basics of pain science.
Pain Research Methods: This book is more specific to pain research and encompasses a broad array of commonly used techniques in pain.
Science of Pain (Basbaum et al. 2008): A textbook comprised of articles by top pain researchers. Very similar in scope and detail as Textbook of Pain. In fact, many of the chapters look identical because the same authors wrote the same kind of chapters in each book. There are some unique elements in this book, but overall, it lacks a bit of the polish that Textbook of Pain has. Still a worthwhile reference.
The Oxford Handbook of the Neurobiology of Pain [Added 2019-01-10]
- Science - Special Pain Edition (2016)
- Cellular and molecular mechanisms of pain (Basbaum and Julius 2009)
- Neuronal circuitry for pain processing in the dorsal horn (Todd 2010)
- Neuropathic Pain: A Maladaptive Response of the Nervous System to Damage(Costigan et al. 2009)
- The neuropathic pain triad: neurons, immune cells and glia (Scholz et al. 2007)
- Nociceptors: the sensors of the pain pathway(Dubin and Patapoutian 2010)
- The functional and anatomical dissection of somatosensory subpopulations using mouse genetics (Le Pichon and Chesler 2014
- The sensory neurons of touch (Abraira and Ginty 2013)
- Transmitting Pain and Itch Messages: A Contemporary View of the Spinal Cord Circuits that Generate Gate Control (Braz et al. 2015)
- Signaling Pathways in Sensitization: Toward a Nociceptor Cell Biology (Hucho and Levine 2007)
- Animals models of pain: Progress and Challenges (Mogil 2009)
- Central Sensitization: a generator of pain hypersensitivity by central neural plasticity (Latremoliere and Woolf, 2009)
- Glia and pain: is chronic pain a gliopathy? (Ji et al. 2013)
- Central sensitization and LTP: do pain and memory share similar mechanisms? (Ji et al. 2003)
- Pain hypersensitivity mechanisms at a glance (Gangadharan and Kuner 2013)
- Neuroimmunity: Physiology and Pathology (Talbot et al. 2016)
- Role of the immune system in chronic pain (Marchand et al. 2005)
- The role of the immune system in the generation of neuropathic pain (Calvo et al. 2012)
- The Cerebral Signature of Pain Perception and Its Modulation (Tracey and Mantyh 2007)
- Targeting Pain Where It Resides … In the Brain (Sharif-Naeini and Basbaum 2011)
- Molecular Mechanisms of Nociception (Julius and Basbaum 2001)
- Methods Used to Evaluate Pain Behaviors in Rodents (Deuis et al. 2017)
- An Overview of Pain Models (Gregory et al. 2013)
Exemplary Original Articles
- Identification of spinal circuits transmitting and gating mechanical pain. (Duan et al. 2014)
- Wnt-Fzd Signaling Sensitizes Peripheral Sensory Neurons via Distinct Noncanonical Pathways (Simonetti et al 2014)
- A Brainstem-Spinal Cord Inhibitory Circuit for Mechanical Pain Modulation by GABA and Enkephalins.
- Loss of μ opioid receptor signaling in nociceptors, but not microglia, abrogates morphine tolerance without disrupting analgesia.
- Dissociation of the opioid receptor mechanisms that control mechanical and heat pain
- Dorsal Horn Circuits for Persistent Mechanical Pain. (Peirs et al. 2015)
- The serine protease inhibitor SerpinA3N attenuates neuropathic pain by inhibiting T cell-derived leukocyte elastase
- Touch Receptor-Derived Sensory Information Alleviates Acute Pain Signaling and Fine-Tunes Nociceptive Reflex Coordination.
- Mechanistic Differences in Neuropathic Pain Modalities Revealed by Correlating Behavior with Global Expression Profiling.
- Activity-dependent silencing reveals functionally distinct itch-generating sensory neurons.
- Selective spider toxins reveal a role for the Nav1.1 channel in mechanical pain.
- Different immune cells mediate mechanical pain hypersensitivity in male and female mice.
- A pathway from midcingulate cortex to posterior insula gates nociceptive hypersensitivity.
- A craniofacial-specific monosynaptic circuit enables heightened affective pain.
- Piezo2 is the major transducer of mechanical forces for touch sensation in mice.
- Bacteria activate sensory neurons that modulate pain and inflammation
- Distinct subsets of unmyelinated primary sensory fibers mediate behavioral responses to noxious thermal and mechanical stimuli.
- Peptidergic CGRPα primary sensory neurons encode heat and itch and tonically suppress sensitivity to cold.
- The transcription factor c-Maf controls touch receptor development and function.
- Low-threshold mechanoreceptor subtypes selectively express MafA and are specified by Ret signaling.
- Gate control of mechanical itch by a subpopulation of spinal cord interneurons.
- Dynorphin acts as a neuromodulator to inhibit itch in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord.
- Extracellular caspase-6 drives murine inflammatory pain via microglial TNF-α secretion.
- A spinal analog of memory reconsolidation enables reversal of hyperalgesia.
- BDNF from microglia causes the shift in neuronal anion gradient underlying neuropathic pain.
- Trans-synaptic shift in anion gradient in spinal lamina I neurons as a mechanism of neuropathic pain.