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Thomas Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin photo for spotlightMy wife Ronda and I live in nearby Walkertown on 6 acres of land with our two dogs, Jack and Dinah, and 3 Nubian dairy goats, Charlie, Clarice, and Lily. We have 3 adult sons Conner, Salem, and Leo. In addition to spending time with my family, I enjoy playing around on the land with my 1961 Ford 861 Powermaster tractor and rooting for the UNC Tar Heels.

I earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia in 1989 under the mentorship of Dr. Billy R. Martin. I then moved to Wake Forest School of Medicine in 1989 to join the laboratory of Dr. James E. Smith in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology as a postdoctoral fellow. In 2006 I joined the Department of Anesthesiology and the Pain Mechanisms Laboratory, in which I now hold the rank of Professor.

The lab. My lab currently consists of myself and Susy A. Kim, Tracy J. Strassburg, Becca McMullan, Conner W. Martin, and Salem J. Martin. We actively collaborate with all other members of the Pain Mechanisms Lab as well as several faculty in the Departments of Physiology and Pharmacology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, and Cancer Biology. We are focused on the neurobiology of pain and addiction mechanisms, particularly as they relate to neuropathic pain and opioids. We are well versed in intravenous drug self-administration, intracranial self-stimulation, food reinforced operant behaviors, and a number of classical behavioral pain assays. Pain models that we incorporate into our experiments include peripheral nerve ligation, incision models, and acute noxious heat, mechanical or chemical stimulation.

Projects. The list on ongoing projects in the lab include:

Cognitive effects of acute and chronic pain. We are interested in how acute and chronic pain alters cognition, particularly attention and impulsivity. For this we rely on a variant of the classical five choice serial reaction time task, in which the duration of the cue stimulus is titrated in real time according to the performance ability of the subject. We have demonstrated that acute abdominal inflammatory pain disrupts this task, which is reversed by opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. We are currently examining mechanism by which peripheral nerve injury disrupts this behavior. These studies are funded by the National Institute on General Medical Sciences through P01-GM113852.

Pharmacotherapies for cognitive effects induced by cocaine self-administration. We are also exploring the ability of continued intermittent cocaine self-administration to disrupt attention and impulse control using the titration variant of the five choice serial reaction time task as well as a delay discounting task. This project involves assessment of disruptive effects of cocaine self-administration under intermittent access conditions and exploring pharmacological classes of drugs that may be useful in mitigating these effects. This project is supported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse through P50-DA006634.

The role of oxytocin in recovery from post-surgical pain and the transition of acute to chronic pain. We are interested in how oxytocin may provide a protective effect against the transition from acute to chronic pain, and have an active collaboration with Dr. James Eisenach in this project. Dr. Eisenach’s group has found that oxytocin release in the spinal cord is associated with recovery from peripheral nerve ligation, and that allodynia is absent in post-partum female rats after nerve injury at a time when oxytocin levels are elevated. Further, recovery from nerve injury in males also appears to be related to increase oxytocin expression and release in the spinal cord. We are also exploring the role that social bonding in prairie voles may have in mitigating the effects of nerve injury and the role of oxytocin in these effects. These projects are supported by the National Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Stroke through R21-NS085533 and by the National Institute on General Medical Sciences through R37-GM48085.

Behavioral effects of acute and chronic pain. A long standing interest of our laboratory is to develop and validate novel methods by which to assess and understand how pain alters physiology in laboratory animals, and ways to assess the behavioral effects of this altered physiology. We have used drug self-administration, intracranial self-stimulation, and a variety of food-reinforced operant-based models to study the effects of acute and chronic pain manipulations on rodent behavior and the resulting pharmacology. We have recently developed in collaboration with Drs. Dani Boada and Doug Ririe an engineered surface that translates altered electrical responses of primary sensory afferents to mechanical stimulation into behavior. This is a continued area of interest that is funded by various sources.

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Pain Research

Dr. James Eisenach

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