Neuroplasticity

Central Sensitization

Central sensitization (CSens) describes a state of neuronal hyper-excitability in the central nervous system. CSens is associated with pain syndromes including fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and myofascial pain syndrome. CSens has a major negative impact on patient mobility and quality of life. Mechanisms that determine the maladaptive neuroplasticity that underpins CSens are poorly understood. In addition to magnifying pain sensation, our research suggests that CSens results in neuroplastic changes in the ventral horn of the spinal cord, resulting in movement abnormalities. Using a human model of experimentally induced sensitization (capsaicin), we have demonstrated that movement abnormalities may arise due to effects of sensitization on motor unit recruitment and excitability. Another goal of the lab is to study the effect of sensitization on a patient’s mobility by measuring abnormalities in muscle function during voluntary movement. Ultimately, our research aims to better understand central sensitization to guide the development of future therapies and treatments.