The spinal cord is a key area in pain research as it is the first point in the central nervous system to receive pain signals and is also thought to be a key site for the establishment of chronic pain. In this region, there are many different types of nerve cells that receive pain signals. 

This diversity is a major barrier in pain research because it makes it difficult to determine which nerve cell types cause chronic pain (Smith et al, 2014). Fortunately, recent advances have allowed genetic  labelling’ of specific nerve cell types for easy identification and study. This allows us to follow the properties of specific nerve cells after injury and determine how they contribute chronic pain. 

My PhD has used this approach to study a population of excitatory spinal nerve cells, characterise the factors that shape their activity, and to identify how they contribute to chronic pain. This has opened the possibility of a new approach to pain relief that selectively reduces pathological levels of excitation within the spinal cord.

This grant supports travel to the  United States is to attend the Society for Neuroscience conference and to visit several laboratories to  present work and acquire novel techniques that can be introduced to our research in Newcastle. Kelly will attend the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) conference, the biggest meeting of it’s type with >20,000 attendees. This will allow her to present her data to an international audience from a wide range of neuroscience research fields.


Kelly Smith, Associate Professor Brett Graham, Professor Bob Callister

Research Area 
Project type 
Travel Grant
Year of funding