Linda Watkins is a Professor in the Department of Psychology,
a University of Colorado President's Teaching Scholar, and
the Director of the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Ph.D. Program.
She received her Ph.D. in Physiology from the Medical College
of Virginia in 1980 and has been at the University of Colorado-Boulder
since 1988. She has received career awards from the National
Institute of Health and National Institute for Mental Health
and numerous research grants from the National Institute for
Mental Health, National Institute for Neurological Diseases
and Stroke, and National Institute for Drug Abuse. She has
authored or co-authored over 190 book chapters, review articles
and journal articles.
Dr. Watkins research focuses on 3 inter-related areas.
Her primary research interest is understanding how to control
clinically relevant pathological pain states. Her groups
research points to a novel reason that clinical pain has been
impossible to successfully control. That is, pathological
pain is being created and maintained by a surprising cell
type, namely glia. These cells, upon activation, dysregulate
normal pain processing by the spinal cord neurons. The aim
of this research is to both understand how glia dysregulate
neuronal function and, ultimately, to develop clinically relevant
means to control such pain states. Toward this end, pharmacological,
molecular biological, behavioral. anatomical, and gene therapy
studies are performed. The second research area of interest
is in understanding the role of central nervous system proinflammatory
cytokines in pain, learning and memory, and various brain-mediated
responses that are created in response to infection/inflammation
in the body (so-called "sickness responses"). The
third research area focuses on understanding the impact that
perception of control vs. perception of lack of control has
on physiology and neurochemistry of the organism.
Nicotra, L., Loram, L., Watkins, L.R. & Hutchinson, M.R., Toll like receptors in chronic pain. Experimental Neurology Special Issue on Microglia and Chronic Pain, (2012) in press.
Hutchinson, M.R., Shavit, Y., Grace, P.M., Rice, K.C., Maier, S.F., & Watkins, L.R., Exploring the neuroimmunolopharmacology of opioids: an integrative review of mechanisms of central immune signaling and their implicaitons for opioid analgesia, Pharmacological Reviews 63 (2011) 722-810.
Watkins, L.R., Hutchinson, M.R., Rice, K., & Maier, S.F., The "toll" of opioid-induced glial activation: improving the clinical efficacy of opioids by targeting glia, Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 30 (2009) 581-591. PMCID: PMC2783351.
Milligan, E.D., and Watkins, L.R., Pathological and protective roles of glia in chronic pain, Nature Neuroscience Reviews, 10 (2009) 23-36.