Developing Improved Translational Models of Pain: A Role for the Behavioral Scientist

Sarah L. Withey, David R. Maguire, Brian D. Kangas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The effective management of pain is a longstanding public health concern. Although opioids have been frontline analgesics for decades, they also have well-known undesirable effects that limit their clinical utility, such as abuse liability and respiratory depression. The failure to develop better analgesics has, in some ways, contributed to the escalating opioid epidemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and has cost hundreds of billions of dollars in health-care expenses. A paradigm shift is needed in the pharmacotherapy of pain management that will require extensive efforts throughout biomedical science. The purpose of the present review is to highlight the critical role of the behavioral scientist to devise improved translational models of pain for drug development. Despite high heterogeneity of painful conditions that involve cortical-dependent pain processing, current models often feature an overreliance on simple reflex-based measures and an emphasis on the absence, rather than presence, of behavior as evidence of analgesic efficacy. Novel approaches should focus on the restoration of operant and other CNS-mediated behavior under painful conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-55
Number of pages17
JournalPerspectives on Behavior Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Analgesia
  • Animal models
  • Antinociception
  • Nociception
  • Opioids
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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