Brian Burrell, Ph.D.
    Professor of Neuroscience, Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences
    Director, USD Inclusive Science Initiative
    Co-Director, USD Neuroscience, Nanotechnology & Networks (USD-N3)
    Co-Director, Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction (SPURA)
    Sanford School of Medicine
    University of South Dakota

    414 E.Clark Street
    Vermillion, SD 57069
    Phone: (605) 658-6352 
    Fax: (605) 677-6381



Research Interests: Neural Plasticity Related to Pain

Nociception (the perception of pain) is a critical function of the nervous system that protects us from additional injury or death. My lab is interested in the cellular mechanisms of how nociception is modulated focusing on a class of lipid neurotransmitters referred to as endocannabinoids. Specifically, we are examining how endocannabinoids can have both anti-nociceptive and pro-nociceptive effects. Our research suggests that these transmitters differentially modulated nociceptive and non-nociceptive synapses, depressing nociceptive synapses (an anti-nociceptive effect) and potentiating non-nociceptive synapses (a potentially pro-nociceptive effect).

These studies utilize the medicinal leech, Hirudo verbana, as a model system because the nervous system in Hirudo is very well characterized in terms of the identity, functional role and synaptic connections of individual neurons. This makes it possible to carry out detailed analyses of pre– versus postsynaptic cellular mechanisms mediating synaptic plasticity and to link plasticity in individual neurons or synapses to changes at the behavioral level. The lab utilizes electrophysiological, behavioral, and molecular biology approaches to address these questions about endocannabinoids and nociception. This comparative approach can uncover fundamental mechanisms of nociception and endocannabinoid modulation that may also have applications for the treatment of chronic pain. Currently our research is supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (1R01NS092716-01A1), USD Center for Brain and Behavior Research, and the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences.

Neuroscience at USD:  I am member of the USD Center for Brain & Behavior Research (CBBRe; www.usd.edu/cbbre). I am also the Co-Director of the USD Neuroscience, Nanotechnology & Networks program (USD-N3; www.usd.edu/usdn3), a graduate training program supported by the NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program (DGE-1633213).

Undergraduate Research at USD: I am an active in promoting undergraduate research at USD and am the Co-Director of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction (SPURA; http://www.usd.edu/cbbre/spura).  Previously, I have served on the USD Council for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCS) and as the chair of IdeaFest, USD's premier student research symposium. 

Inclusive Excellence in the Sciences: I am the director of the USD Inclusive Science Initiative (USD ISI). This is a program funded by a five-year grant from the HHMI Inclusive Excellence program and is meant to generate institutional changes that will increase the participation of students from under-represented groups in the sciences. For more information, go to http://www.usd.edu/research/inclusive-science-initiative.

Public Outreach
TEDx Talk: "What a Leech Can Tell Us ABout How It Hurts".  A recent talk I gave at the Tedx Sioux River symposium about our lab's research and the value of invertebrate model systems for biomedical research.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b32tZfte_JA&feature=BFa&list=PLI2jAQI16GalXc5nKr4S366wFgMkxOpGR
"Pain with Dr. Brian Burrell" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q22IYtl5jg&feature=youtu.be. A short YouTube video produced by Mr. Joshua Haiar that talks about pain and the use of invertebrates in biomedical research. Check it out!
"Pain is Good" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap6ynkL0gcY&feature=youtu.beA 5-minute flash lecture sponsored by the USD Honors Program.
Reprint and data-sharing requests:  Email Brian Burrell (see above) for e-copies of all articles from the lab and for data-sharing access.