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Research Investigator Profile
Anne Louise Oaklander MD, PhD
I am a neurologist/neuroscientist working in patient care, research, and education. I direct a laboratory that studies causes of neuropathic pain. My goal is to help bring these syndromes into the medical mainstream to improve diagnosis, and thus treatment. We have studied patients with postherpetic pain or itch after zoster, sensory polyneuropathies, or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) (reflex sympathetic dystrophy) with methods including sensory testing, measuring axon flare and axon density in skin. We showed that postherpetic pain does not persist unless the density of remaining axon endings drops below a specific threshold. Our research on postherpetic itch has been discussed in Science and New Yorker magazines.
Several publications concern effects of focal nerve injuries on the uninjured opposite “mirror” location, including gene-expression changes in sensory ganglia, loss of ½ of nerve endings directly opposite shingles rashes. We also reported that cutting a nerve in rats causes a similar long-lasting loss of ½ of the mirror-contralateral nerve endings, arguing against the common practice of using mirror-contralesional tissues as controls.
Another focus is complex regional pain syndrome/reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Our highly cited 2006 publication identifying small-fiber axonal injury in this condition helped repudiate myths of psychogenic causality. We designed a rat model of CRPS to study the mechanisms of symptom generation.
Nerve Injury LaboratoryWarren 310Massachusetts General Hospital55 Fruit StreetBoston, MA 02110
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