Research Investigator Profile

Anne Louise Oaklander MD, PhD

Anne Louise Oaklander MD, PhD

  • Associate Professor of Neurology,
    Harvard Medical School
  • Associate in Neurology,
    Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Assistant in Pathology (Neuropathology),
    Massachusetts General Hospital


Research Description

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.

Research interests Somatosensory function, nerve injury, mechanisms of neuropathic pain and itch
Research techniques Epidemiology, Immunohistochemistry, Microsurgery, Morphometry, Quantitative Sensory Testing
Diseases studied Nerve Injury, Shingles and postherpetic neuralgia, complex regional pain syndrome, polyneuropathy
Selected publications
  1. Oaklander AL, Rissmiller JG, Gelman LB, Zheng L, Chang Y, Gott R. Evidence of focal small-fiber axonal degeneration in complex regional pain syndrome-I (reflex sympathetic dystrophy).  Pain 2006; 120:235-243.
  2. Oaklander AL, Brown JM. Unilateral nerve injury produces bilateral loss of distal innervation. Ann Neurol 2004;55:639-644.
  3. Paticoff J, Valovska, A, Nedeljkovic SS, Oaklander AL, Defining a treatable cause of erythromelalgia:  Acute adolescent autoimmune small-fiber axonopathy.  Anesthesia & Analgesia 2007;104:438-441.
  4. Lee JW, Siegel, SM, Oaklander AL. Effects of distal nerve injuries on dorsal-horn neurons and glia: Relationships between lesion size and mechanical hyperalgesia.  Neuroscience, 2009;158:904-914.
  5. Oaklander AL, Fields HL.  Is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/CRPS-I a small-fiber neuropathy? Annals of Neurology 2009;65:629-638.
NCBI PubMed link NCBI PubMed Publications
Collaborators External collaborators: Wade Kingery MD, Martin Schmelz, Howard Fields
Harvard Medical School: Jose Halperin
E-mail address
Lab mailing address

Nerve Injury Laboratory
Warren 310
Massachusetts General Hospital
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02110

Lab Name Nerve Injury Unit
Clinical interests Peripheral nerve, general neurology
Clinical address Massachusetts General Hospital
Neurology, Suite 835
Wang Ambulatory Care Center
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114 USA

Clinical website address

Neuromuscular Division


Updated 02/20/2010

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