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Robert Sorge.

Associate ProfessorThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
CH 363
(205) 934-8563

Research Interests: Innate immune system involvement in pain and addiction

Office Hours: By appointment


  • B.S., McMaster University, Canada, Psychology
  • M.A., Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, Experimental Psychology
  • Ph.D., Concordia University, Canada, Psychology

Born in a little hamlet in rural Canada, I have spent the majority of my life in the north. I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 2000 under the supervision of Dr. Geoff Galef (environmental enrichment), a Master’s degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada under Dr. Linda Parker (THC and nausea, 2001) and a PhD from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2006 under Dr. Jane Stewart (heroin and cocaine addiction).

Continuing my love for Montreal, I completed a postdoctoral fellowship at McGill University under Dr. Paul Clarke (nicotine addiction, 2009) and under Dr. Jeff Mogil (genetics and pain, 2012). I started at UAB in the Department of Psychology in the summer of 2012 and have been here ever since.

I am currently enjoying Alabama with my family and return to Canada in the warmer months of the year to avoid the snow. As animal lovers, we currently have two dogs, a cat, a rat, a snake, and eight fish, and we watch friends’ animals when they are out of town.

  • Research Interests

    The research in my lab follows a number of different paths that generally fall under the umbrella of innate immune system involvement in pain and addiction.

    First, we have shown that alteration of the innate immune system can change pain expression in animals and that the different sexes use separate cellular mechanisms to mediate pain. One are of research in my lab is examining the impact of diet on the functioning of the immune system and the resulting effect on acute pain sensitivity and persistence of chronic pain. We are looking at rodent models of diet and pain as well as developing models of nutrition and pain in zebrafish in collaboration with the Department of Biology. Recently we have started to look at the impact of diet interventions on pain in human patients with knee pain and plan to continue our parallel work in animals and human patients.

    Second, we have a number of lines of knockout mice that allow us to examine the role of various innate immune system pathways in the expression of acute and chronic pain. We are interested in the toll-like receptors and their downstream targets, the inflammasomes. Currently we have characterized the role of a number of these pathways and are actively investigating the possibility of developing pharmacological treatments to reduce pain behavior.

    Third, we are investigating the involvement of the innate immune system in the rewarding properties of drugs of abuse. Almost every drug of abuse has painkilling properties and there is evidence that these drugs also activate the immune system. Our work is focused on discovering whether we can modulate the rewarding value of opioid and stimulant drugs via immune system treatments using the conditioned place preference procedure.

    Finally, we are using the operant self-administration procedure to allow rats to self-medicate with pain-killing drugs while in a mild chronic pain state. This will allow us to measure the pain-killing and rewarding value of novel pain treatments within a single experimental procedure as a model for patient-controlled analgesia. The goal of this research is to test new drugs for their addictive potential prior to testing in humans.

  • Recent Courses
    • PY 253: Brain, Mind, and Behavior
    • PY 390: Animal Behavior
    • PY431/787: Dynamics of Pain
  • Graduate Students
    • Stacie Totsch (Behavioral neuroscience program, 2014-present)
    • Megan Waite (Behavioral neuroscience program, 2014-present)
  • Select Publications

    Textbook chapter

    • Totsch, S.K., Waite, M.E., & Sorge, R.E. (in press). Dietary influence on pain via the immune system. In T.J. Price & G.O. Dussor (Eds). Molecular Biology of Pain, Progress in Molecular and Translational Science. Elsevier.

    Refereed articles

    • Sorge, R.E., Martin, L. J., Isbester, K. A., Sotocinal, S. G., Rosen, S., Tuttle, A. H., Weiskopf, J. S., Acland, E. L., Dokova, A., Kadoura, B., Leger, P., Mapplebeck, J. C. S., McPhail, M., Delaney, A., Wigerblad, G., Schumann, A. P., Quinn, T., Frasnelli, J., Svensson, C.I., Sternberg, W. F. & Mogil, J. S. (2014). Olfactory exposure to males, including human males, produces stress and stress- induced analgesia in rodents. Nature Methods, 11(6), 629-32.
    • *Sorge, R.E., Melemedjian, O. K., Khoutorsky, A., Yan, J., Asiedu, M. N., Valdez, A., Ghosh, S., Dussor, G., Mogil, J. S., Sonenberg, N. & Price, T. J. (2013) mTORC1 inhibition induces sensory neuron hyperexcitability and allodynia via IRS1-dependent feedback activation of ERK. Pain, 154(7), 1080-91.
    • Sorge, R.E., LaCroix-Fralish, M. L., Tuttle, A. H., Khoutorsky, A., Sotocinal, S. G., Austin, J. S., Melmed, K., Wood, J. N., Shi, Y., Naoumova, A. & Mogil, J. S. (2013). The yin and yang of pain: variability in formalin test nociception and morphine analgesia produced by the yin yang 1 transcription factor gene. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 12, 405-13.
    • Sorge, R.E., Trang, T., Dorfman, R., Smith, S. B., Beggs, S., Ritchie, J., Austin, J-S., Zaykin, D. V., Vander Meulen, H., Costigan, M., Herbert, T. A., Yarkoni-Abitbul, M., Tichauer, D., Livneh, J., Gershon, E., Zheng, M., Tan, K., Johns, S. L., Slade, G. D., Jordan, J., Woolf, C. J., Peltz, G., Maixner, W., Diatchenko, L., Seltzer, Z., Salter, M. W., & Mogil, J. S. (2012). Genetically determined P2X7 receptor pore formation regulates variability in chronic pain sensitivity. Nature Medicine, 18, 595-599
    • Sorge, R.E., LaCroix-Fralish, M. L., Bailey, A. L., Tuttle, A. H., Sotocinal, S. G., Austin, J-S., Ritchie, J., Chanda, M. L., Graham, A. C., Topham, L., Beggs, S., Salter, M. W., & Mogil, J. S. (2011). Spinal cord toll-like receptor 4 mediates chronic inflammatory and neuropathic hypersensitivity in males but not females. Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 15450-4.
    • Mogil, J. S., Sorge, R.E., LaCroix-Fralish, M. L., Smith, S. B., Fortin, A,M Sotocinal, S. G., Ritchie, J., Austin, J-S., Schorscher-Petcu, A., Melmed, K., Bittong, R. A., Mokris, B., Neubert, J. K., Campbell, C. M., Edwards, R. R., Campbell, J. N., Crawley, J. N., Lariviere, W. R., Sternberg, W. F., Balaban, C. D., Belfer, I., & Fillingim, R. B. (2011). Pain sensitivity and vasopressin analgesia in mice and humans is mediated by a gene-environment interaction involving the AVPR1A gene and acute stress. Nature Neuroscience, 14, 1569-73.
    • *Sorge, R.E., Matsumiya, L., Sotocinal, S. G., Tabaka, J., Zaloum, A., King, O. D., & Mogil, J. S. (2012). A re-evaluation of the efficacy of postoperative analgesics in the laboratory mouse based on the mouse grimace scale. JAALAS, 51, 42-49.
    • Sotocinal, S. G., Sorge, R.E., Zaloum, A., Tuttle, A. H., Martin, L. J., Wieskopf, J. S., Mapplebeck, J. C. S., Wei, P., Zhan, S., Zhang, S., McDougall, J. J., King, O. D., & Mogil, J. S. (2011). The rat grimace scale: a partially automated method for quantifying pain in the laboratory rat via facial expressions. Molecular Pain, 7, 55.

    *co-first author

  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies
    • Member of the American Pain Society
    • International Association for the Study of Pain
    • Society for Neuroscience
    • Canadian Pain Society
    • American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
    • UAB Comprehensive Neuroscience Center
    • UAB Nutrition and Obesity Research Center
    • UAB Diabetes Research Center
    • UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care
    • UAB Graduate Biomedical Science Faculty
  • Student Groups