Robert Sorge, Ph.D., Burel Goodin, Ph.D., and Jarred Younger, Ph.D.The Department of Psychology is leading the way in the race to end chronic pain. Through the work of Robert Sorge, Ph.D., Jarred Younger, Ph.D., and Burel Goodin, Ph.D., UAB is establishing itself as a pain research powerhouse.

Younger’s discoveries about leptin, microglia, and naltrexone have already begun to change the face of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue research and treatment. While conducting further studies on low-dose naltrexone—as well as other compounds, including the spice curcumin, that are known to affect microglia—his efforts in the Neuroinflammation, Pain, and Fatigue Lab are uncovering the mechanisms behind the diseases. 

Research by Sorge sheds light on the effects of diet on chronic pain. Studies have found sufferers of chronic pain are more susceptible to prolonged and pronounced health issues when practicing poor diet habits; a change in diet can reduce the intense pain caused by knee osteoarthritis, the most prominent form of arthritis.

Goodin’s research highlights the connection between a person’s emotional pain and their physical pain experience and the effect of optimism on pain. The same area of the brain that lights up when a person is rejected and emotionally hurt is the same part that responds when a person is poked with a sharp object. He has found that among people who report having been discriminated against, whether in a medical setting, looking for housing, or by the police, they were more sensitive to pain. Recently, Goodin has turned his attention to the conduct of pain research—specifically, the ways in which language within the field can perpetuate racist ideologies.

Together, these researchers are unlocking some of the mysteries that surround chronic pain, redefining the illness in its own right, and developing cutting edge ways to treat it.