Research Interests

Early Life Experience

We are interested in how early life experience alters future behavior, both transiently & permanently.  Current research in the lab examines how early life pain impacts juvenile and adult responses to stress-, anxiety-, and pain-provoking stimuli.  

Infants represent one of the fastest growing populations with substance abuse disorder. Ongoing research in the lab is studying how early life exposure to morphine impacts brain development and future behavioral responses to stress and pain.

Impact of Sex & Age on Pain & Analgesia

Females require approximately twice the amount of morphine as males to produce comparable levels of pain relief.  The pain relieving properties of morphine are also significantly attenuated in the aged population. Ongoing research in the Murphy Lab studies the mechanism(s) underlying the impact of sex and age on opioid analgesia.  Current research is focused on sex & age differences in (1) mu opioid receptor expression and G-protein coupling; (2) morphine metabolites; and (3) microglia and TLR4 signaling.

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is an extremely painful heritable blood disorder. Attacks of pain (sickle-cell crisis) begin around the age of 5-6 months.  Currently, morphine is the primary drug used to clinically manage pain in these patients, however long term opioid use is less than desirable. Research in the lab examines the contribution of neuroinflammatory mechanisms to sickle cell pain. 

Sex Differences in Immune Function

We have recently shown that there are significant sex differences in glia expression in the brain. In particular, female microglia show a more 'activated' phenotype than males at baseline and launch a more robust neuroinflammatory response when exposed to a pathogen.  Current research in the Murphy lab examines the consequences of increased neuroimmune signaling in the CNS in females.  

 The Gut Microbiome

It is now widely established that the bacteria in your digestive system - referred to as the gut microbiome - can have a profound influence on not just your physical health, but your mental health as well.  Research in the lab examines the impact of early life experience, chronic pain, burn, sickle cell disease, ... on the the gut microbiome and how these changes contribute to the observed phenotype.