H. Richard Koerber, PhD

Professor, Neurobiology


W1452 Biomedical Science Tower
F: 412-648-1441
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PhD, West Virginia University (1981)


Development, plasticity and pain processing in sensory neurons and in the spinal dorsal horn.

Research Summary

Research interests in Dr. Koerber's laboratory include several projects designed to investigate the processing of somatosensory information following injury. These studies include examinations of plasticity in the processing of both tactile and pain information. Recent studies have documented compensatory reorganization of spinal networks following peripheral nerve injury and subsequent regeneration. These studies have demonstrated many aspects of synaptic reorganization, including reshaping of cutaneous receptive fields, alterations in synaptic efficacy and the formation of new functional connections between sensory fibers and dorsal horn neurons.

Ongoing experiments in the lab focus on plasticity in both primary sensory neurons and central spinal networks involved in pain pathways. Initial studies have quantitatively compared the properties of normal and post-injury cutaneous nociceptive sensory neurons. Results of these studies demonstrate that specific types of nociceptive sensory neurons demonstrate differing degrees of sensitization commensurate with the type of injury. Parallel studies using genetically-altered animals have assessed the roles specific neurotrophins and/or the GDNF family of growth factors may play in this process. The aims of future studies are to determine how changes in the expression of these growth factors in the skin following injury can lead to changes in afferent fiber sensitivity. Possible mechanisms for this sensitization include modulating the expression of mechanically and thermally sensitive ion channels (e.g. ASIC and TRP channels).

Trainees in Dr. Koerber's laboratory have the opportunity to learn a variety of neurophysiological, neuroanatomical, behavioral, and molecular biological techniques. These techniques allow for a robust examination of the response characteristics of the adult and developing nervous system to injury.



Hachisuka, J., Y. Omori, M. C. Chiang, M. S. Gold, H. R. Koerber and S. E. Ross (2018). Wind-up in lamina I spinoparabrachial neurons: a role for reverberatory circuits.


Jankowski, M. P., L. Miller and H. R. Koerber (2018). Increased expression of transcription factor SRY-box containing gene 11 (Sox11) enhances neurite growth by regulating neurotrophic factor responsiveness.


Jankowski MP, Rau KK, Koerber HR. Cutaneous TRPM8-expressing sensory afferents are a small population of neurons with unique firing properties.


Jankowski MP, Baumbauer KM, Wang T, Albers KM, Davis BM, Koerber HR. Cutaneous neurturin overexpression alters mechanical, thermal, and cold responsiveness in physiologically identified primary afferents.


Hachisuka J, Baumbauer KM, Omori Y, Snyder LM, Koerber HR, Ross SE. Semi-intact ex vivo approach to investigate spinal somatosensory circuits.


Molliver DC, Rau KK, Jankowski MP, Soneji DJ, Baumbauer KM, Koerber HR.  Deletion of the murine ATP/UTP receptor P2Y2 alters mechanical and thermal response properties in polymodal cutaneous afferents


Reed-Geaghan EG, Wright MC, See LA, Adelman PC, Lee KH, Koerber HR, Maricich SM.  Merkel Cell-Driven BDNF Signaling Specifies SAI Neuron Molecular and Electrophysiological Phenotypes.


Baumbauer KM, DeBerry JJ, Adelman PC, Miller RH, Hachisuka J, Lee KH, Ross SE, Koerber HR, Davis BM, Albers KM.  Keratinocytes can modulate and directly initiate nociceptive responses


Kardon AP, Polgár E, Hachisuka J, Snyder LM, Cameron D, Savage S, Cai X, Karnup S, Fan CR, Hemenway GM, Bernard CS, Schwartz ES, Nagase H, Schwarzer C, Watanabe M, Furuta T, Kaneko T, Koerber HR, Todd AJ, Ross SE.  Dynorphin acts as a neuromodulator to inhibit itch in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord


Jankowski MP, Rau KK, Ekmann KM, Anderson CE, Koerber HR.  Comprehensive phenotyping of group III and IV muscle afferents in mouse


Vrontou S, Wong AM, Rau KK, Koerber HR, Anderson DJ.  Genetic identification of C fibres that detect massage-like stroking of hairy skin in vivo