Neural Structure and Function Laboratory

Lab head: Kevin Keay
Location: Anderson Stuart Building, Camperdown Campus

For a number of years, the major focus of research conducted by this laboratory has been the central nervous system circuits and mechanisms that underlie an individual's response to traumatic injuries. In particular, this laboratory is interested in answering two important questions:

  1. Why do some people develop conditions of chronic pain and disability following traumatic injury whereas others recover quickly and without complication?


  2. What is the organisation, connectivity and neurochemistry of the brain circuits which mediate shock following blood loss which is often associated with traumatic injury?


Lab members: K Keay (head)

Injury, disability and chronic pain research

Primary supervisor: Kevin Keay

Recent work from our laboratory has demonstrated that nerve injury evokes both pain and disabilities (i.e., disrupted social behaviours, disrupted sleep-wake cycle, changed in appetite, metabolic and endocrine function, loss of the ability to cope effectively with stress/stressors) in a select subgroup of nerve-injured rats. We have therefore suggested that this model of nerve injury is closer to the human clinical presentation than previously appreciated. Our data suggest also that disabilities evoked by nerve damage reflect a specific and select neurobiological response to the injury. We have characterised using molecular biological (i.e., gene-chips, RT-PCR, Western blotting) and functional-anatomical (i.e., immunohistochemistry) techniques unique sets of neural adaptations in sciatic nerve recipient areas of the spinal cord, and the supraspinal areas which receive inputs from them in the subset of rats with pain and disability following injury.

The broad aims of our research is to identify the specific neural networks which undergo (mal)adaptation following injury and lead to both behavioural and physiological changes which characterise individuals with chronic pain and disability. Our research will contribute to a better understanding of the transition from acute injury to chronic pain and disability.

Discipline: Anatomy & Histology