Feldberg Prize Winner and Lecture 2018

“Why time does not heal all wounds: Chronic Pain”

Professor Rohini Kunar


Thursday 26th July 2018 4pm, Rooms A&B, Level 6, West Wing, John Radcliffe Hospital.

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception

Hosted by the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford.


Pain is simultaneously an angel and a tormentor! At the heart of an expanding and dynamic area in biomedical sciences lies the question about how normal 'pain', which is considered a protective body function in every day life, can change into a severely debilitating chronic disease that ruins the quality of life in a large fraction of the world's population. What happens when a physiological pain reaction turns into a self-sustained activity of the nervous system? Which molecular cascades come into play, and importantly, can this knowledge be employed to reverse pathological pain?

I would like to discuss work showing that the spinal dorsal horn, the first venue where pain-sensing incoming afferents from the periphery communicate with the central nervous system, is an important seat of functional changes that can trigger and sustain pathological pain and then go on to discuss the molecular identity of key players and their precise orchestration at spinal synapses.

Pain being an area of immense medical relevance and extraordinary socioeconomic importance, I would like to review some of our work that has directly paved the way for drug discovery. Finally, I would like to turn the spotlight on the neocortex of the brain, which can be seen as a "final frontier" in pain research, and which remains the most complex, least studied of all avenues in the pain pathway. Here, I will discuss a promising strategy based upon combining an entire arsenal on the molecular biology and neurogenetics of pain with cutting-edge methods for interrogating neural circuits, such as optogenetics, in vivo imaging across scales and electrophysiology in awake behaving mice.


Rohini Kuner is a Full Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology and the Director of the Institute for Pharmacology, Medical Faculty Heidelberg, Heidelberg University, Germany. She was trained in pharmacology, neuroscience and mouse genetics at the University of Iowa City, USA, the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg and Heidelberg University. She is the Spokesperson and Leading Scientist of the Heidelberg Pain Consortium (Collaborative Research Center 1158 funded by the German Research Foundation). It spans research activities from over 40 research groups and numerous disciplines in the basic sciences as well as clinical centres addressing neural icircuits mediatninng panninn and their reorgansissation and plasticcity nin chroncicc paninn sataaatees. Rohnini Kuner’s research interests span neurobiological mechanisms underlying chronic pain disorders, elucidation of neural circuits mediating pain and other neurological disorders, cell-cell interactions in the nervous system and development of new strategies for pharmacological therapies. She is particularly known for her work on the molecular neurobiology of pain and has received  several  national  and  international  scientific  awards  for  uncovering  key  molecules  mediating  pain  of inflammatory, neuropathic or cancer origin.