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NeuroNET Symposium Generates Engaged Discussion

Approximately 60 people attended the first NeuroNET Spring Symposium on Pain and Opiates, held April 8th and 9th at the Baker Center. Seven speakers presented on this complex issue over the two-day symposium, generating enthusiastic discussions from the audience.

Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor for research and engagement, and Janet Nelson, associate vice chancellor for research development, were on hand from the Office of Research and Engagement to welcome speakers, guests and open the symposium Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Helen Baghdoyan, Beaman Professor and organizer of the event, introduced panelists both days.

During the first day, James Eisenach, an anesthesiologist from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, gave the opening presentation, which overviewed the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of pain perception in the central nervous system. Eisenach also provided a provocative view about the role of priming and homeostasis in chronic pain.

Tim Brennan, an anesthesiologist from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, then discussed current and novel treatments for acute pain. Brennan’s talk generated much interest from people who have had or were considering having knee, hip, or shoulder surgery.

Michael Smith, a clinical psychologist from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, gave the final talk on Wednesday, about debilitating effects of chronic pain, focusing largely on disruptions in sleep, making the point that pain disrupts sleep, and sleep disruption worsens pain.

On the second day of the symposium, the speakers, shifted focus to the social impacts of pain and opiate use. Kelly Conrad, a neuroscientist from Teva Pharmaceuticals, provided a detailed and accessible introduction to the neuropharmacology of opiates and the changes that occur with substance abuse.

Clinical psychologist Ted Jones from Pain Consultants of East Tennessee (PCET) explained the challenges of patient assessment prior to opioid treatment for chronic pain. James Choo, an anesthesiologist from PCET, then highlighted efforts to improve Tennessee State laws regulating pain medication providers.

Rounding out these two days of stimulating and informative presentations, Georgia Tourassi, a biomedical engineer from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, ended the symposium with a lecture outlining how big data can be used to strategically focus research so one might generate novel healthcare solutions.

The symposium was sponsored by a Haines Morris Endowment Award, NeuroNET, the Kavli Foundation, UT Graduate School of Medicine Department of Anesthesiology, and UT Medical Center Brain and Spine Institute.

The NeuroNET Research Center was created in July 2014 in response to the rapidly growing neuroscience research and teaching presence across UT, UT Medical Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The center includes more than 100 members.