Skip to Main Content


De Aquino Awarded IMPOWR-YOU Grant to Study Pain Sensitivity, Opioid Use Disorder

September 08, 2022
by Jordan Sisson

Joao P. De Aquino, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, has been awarded a pilot grant from the Integrative Management of Chronic Pain and Opioid Use Disorder for Whole Recovery-Yale and Organizations United (IMPOWR-YOU) Research Center to evaluate the relationship between pain sensitivity and brain synaptic density among people with opioid use disorder (OUD).

The study will examine the association between changes in brain synaptic density and multiple components of the pain experience, among people with OUD with and without chronic pain, before and after induction onto buprenorphine — a first-line treatment for OUD.

“Results from this pilot study will support larger scale research to forecast therapeutic effects of buprenorphine. Further, linking brain synaptic density to deep phenotyping of the pain experience among persons with OUD will provide powerful clinical-translational support to guide treatment selection, as well to developing neurobiologically grounded therapeutics — a timely endeavor amidst the opioid crisis,” De Aquino said.

The research team will build on an ongoing NIH-funded Positron Emission Tomography (PET) study and will leverage a state-of-the-art pain assessment technique called computerized quantitative sensory testing (QST). QST is a psychophysical method through which human sensory nerve function is quantitatively and reliably measured, in response to highly controlled and specific stimuli.

The study is made possible through a partnership between the IMPOWR-YOU Center, the APT Foundation, and the Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit (CNRU). The multidisciplinary research team includes Gustavo Angarita, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, and principal investigator (PI) of the ongoing PET study; Declan Barry, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and multiple PI (m-PI) of the IMPOWR-YOU Center grant. The IMPOWR-YOU Center is also led by the m-PI David Fiellin, MD, professor of medicine (general medicine); and m-PI William Becker, MD, associate professor of medicine.

Submitted by Jordan Sisson on September 07, 2022