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Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences
Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute
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Al-Chaer lab (ACELABTM: http://www.uams.edu/acelab)

Research at ACELABTM explores the plastic neural changes associated with or residual to neonatal injury. The lab's team has focused its studies on the long-term effects of visceral injury in neonatal rats on neural and functional outcomes in adults. They use a model of neonatal colon inflammation or pain to study the development and experience-dependant plasticity of sensory-motor circuitry, particularly the permanent structural, functional and behavioral alterations in the adult organism. Observation of adult rats exposed to neonatal colon injury has shown that these rats often exhibit symptoms of chronic visceral and somatic hypersensitivity associated with neural sensitization throughout the neuraxis, in addition to decreased exploratory behavior and disturbances in a number of metabolic functions. These symptoms mimic in large part those seen in patients with some of the most puzzling human functional disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. The clinical implication of these findings is tremendously important, in that many functional behavioral disorders find their roots in neonatal sensory overload or deprivation. The ultimate aim is to identify specific functional circuits in the nervous system and the neurotransmitters they employ in an attempt to explain some of the complex syndromes of adult functional behaviors in terms of neonatal experiences and developmental anomalies.

ACELABTM employs a wide range of technologies, from physiological recordings of blood pressure, respiratory responses and thermoregulation, to electrophysiological analysis of muscular contractions, single neuron activity, afferent fibers activity and neuronal tract tracing to brain imaging and Smart video tracking combined with protein and gene expression and pharmacological intervention.

Dr. Al-Chaer's research has appeared in more than 70 publications (abstracts, book chapters and papers), and has made news on more than one occasion. It is funded by generous grants from the National Institutes of Health in the USA (NINDS and NIDDK) and a number of collaborative research programs with pharmaceutical companies.

To learn more about research at ACELABTM, we invite you to read some of Dr. Al-Chaer's papers or visit his lab's website at http://www.uams.edu/acelab.