Tayler Sheahan, PhD
Pain & Itch Neuroscientist
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Center for Pain Research
My scientific career started as an undergraduate research assistant in Ed Blumenthal’s lab at Marquette University, where I studied a protein called ‘drop-dead’. We discovered that this protein is required for healthy eggshell development in the fruit fly, shedding light on how extracellular structures are organized.
After getting hooked on research and completing my Bachelor of Science in physiological sciences, I pursued a doctorate in neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis in the lab of Rob Gereau. My doctoral work included several studies that were broadly aimed at bridging the translational gap between rodent and human pain research by asking questions like: ‘How do we measure pain in rodents?’ and ‘How similar are the neurons that sense pain in mice and humans?’
In 2018, I joined Sarah Ross’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow in the Pittsburgh Center for Pain Research at the University of Pittsburgh. My current research is focused on understanding how information from our environment is detected by the skin, encoded within the spinal cord, and ultimately carried up to the brain to give rise to the sensations of pain and itch.
Outside of the lab, I spend most of my time running, but you can also find me hiking and gardening.
Read more about my career path and scientific interests in this interview.
questions that keep me up at night
How are pain and itch signals from the skin integrated and processed within the spinal cord?
Pain and itch are distinct sensations—How are they differentially encoded within the nervous system? Which molecules and neurons are involved?
Are the traits of neurons that detect pain and itch evolutionarily conserved?
Can we identify specific subpopulations of spinal neurons that can be targeted to treat chronic pain or chronic itch disorders?
To address these questions and more, I use combination of innovative genetic tools, behavioral methods, and cutting-edge imaging approaches to tease apart spinal neural coding.