All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Tapan S Mehta

Advisory Committee Members

Amie B McLain

Jeremy N Marchant-Forde

Robert E Sorge

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Health Professions


The majority of people suffering from neuropathic pain as a result of a spinal cord injury (SCI) do not experience effective pain relief with currently available therapeutics. One aspect of preclinical studies that may be limiting the development of successful analgesics is the assessment of pain in animal models of SCI. Previous work has relied primarily on withdrawal reflexes to indicate pain; however, there is evidence that suggests this is an inadequate measure of pain sensation as spinal reflexes do not reflect the supraspinal processing of nociceptive information. The use of withdrawal responses is especially challenging in the context of SCI, when ascending pathways of the spinothalamic tract are likely damaged and hyperactive stretch reflexes may confound results. Therefore, the goal of this dissertation work was to develop standardized methods to measure supraspinal pain in animal models of SCI and reexamine the role of withdrawal reflexes in pain sensation. We first used the Rat Grimace Scale (RGS) to assess evoked and spontaneous pain after cervical SCI. Next, we characterized the vocal repertoire of adult domestic pigs in a biomedical research laboratory to provide a foundation for pain-related vocal analysis in our porcine model of SCI. Finally, we developed the Pig Evoked Pain Scale (PEPS), a numerical rating scale that assesses behavioral responses to evoked stimuli ranging from withdrawal reflexes to escape behavior. We found that the RGS and PEPS were reliable in our models of SCI and that withdrawal responses were typically accompanied by behavioral indicators of supraspinal pain. We also classified 16 call types in the vocal repertoire of pigs, and incorporated these results into the development of the PEPS scale. These results provide standardized methods to assess supraspinal pain in small and large animal models of SCI that will improve the translation of results from the laboratory into the clinical setting.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.