Anna Taylor

Dr Anna Taylor

Assistant Professor


PhD - Pharmacology, McGill University, 2011
BSc - Pharmacology, Queen's University, 2005

Teaching: PMCOL 200

Research: Impact of chronic pain on reward and motivation


Research Interests / Laboratory Techniques

Acute pain is a necessary, physiologically relevant phenomenon that serves as a warning signal for actual or potential tissue damage. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is acute pain that has spun out of control. It persists beyond any physiologically relevant purpose and becomes a disease state in and of itself. We now understand that chronic pain leads to adaptations in the sensory nervous system that distinguishes it from acute pain - a phenomenon that may contribute to its stubborn persistence in the face of the typical pharmacological armory such as NSAIDs and opioids.

One limitation to the classical approach to treatment of chronic pain is the myopic focus on the sensory aspects of pain. However, pain has an equally important affective or emotional element. Over long periods of time, this engagement of emotional processes can impact underlying mood states as illustrated by the fact that depression is one of the most common co-morbidities with chronic pain. An emerging question is whether chronic pain can also induce adaptations in emotional and motivational circuits that contribute to the severity and chronicity of this challenging disease.

Our research program is focused on understanding if and how chronic pain changes the structure and function of these emotional and motivational circuits. And if so, are strategies that target these affective changes effective at treating chronic pain and/or improving opioid analgesia?

Current Projects Include:
1) Investigating the mechanism leading to neuroinflammation in the brain in chronic pain
2) Exploring the gut-brain signaling axis in chronic pain and opioid function
3) Studying the sex differences in reward behaviour in chronic pain and opioid function using sophisticated genetic models.

Selected Recent Publications


Lee K*, Vuong HE, Nusbaum DJ, Hsiao EY, Evans CJ, Taylor AMW (2018) The gut microbiota mediates reward and sensory responses associated with regimen-selective morphine dependence. Neuropsychopharmacology in press

Yu X, Taylor AMW, Najai J, Golshani P, Evans CJ, Coppola G, Khakh BS (2018) Reducing astrocyte calcium signaling in vivo alters striatal microcircuits and causes repetitive behaviour (2018) Neuron in press

Taylor AMW (2017) Corticolimbic circuitry in the modulation of chronic pain and substance abuse. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 87(Pt B):263-268

Taylor AMW, Mehrabani S, Liu S, Taylor AJ, Cahill CM. (2017) Topography of microglial activation in sensory and affect related brain regions in chronic pain. J Neurosci Res 95(6):1330-1335

Cahill CM and Taylor AMW. (2017) Neuroinflammation - A co-occuring phenomenon linking chronic pain and opioid dependence. Curr Opin Behav Sci. 13:171-177

Cahill CM, Walwyn W, Taylor AMW, Pradhan AAA, Evans CJ. (2016). Allostatic mechanisms of opioid tolerance beyond desensitization and downregulation. Trends Pharmacol Sci 37(11):963-976

Taylor AM, Becker S, Schweinhardt P, Cahill C. (2016) Mesolimbic dopamine signaling in acute and chronic pain: implications for motivation, analgesia, and addiction. Pain 157(6):1194-8.

Taylor AMW, Castonguay A, Ghogha A, Vayssiere P, Pradhan AAA, Mehrabani S, Xue L, Wu J, Levitt P, De Koninck Y, Evans CJ, Cahill CM. (2016) Neuroimmune regulation of GABAergic neurons within the ventral tegmental area during withdrawal from chronic morphine. Neuropsychopharmacology, 41:949-959

Taylor AM, Castonguay A, Taylor, AJ, Murphy NP, Ghogha A, Cook C, Xue L, Olmstead MC, De Koninck Y, Evans CJ, Cahill CM (2015). Microglia disrupt mesolimbic reward circuitry in chronic pain. J Neurosci 35(22):8442-8450

A complete publication list can be found here: