Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

Kathleen A. Sluka, PT, PhD, FAPTA


Professor of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

Contact Information

Primary Office: 1-248 Medical Education Building
Iowa City, IA 52242
Primary Office Phone: 319-335-9791

Web: Neurobiology of Pain Laboratory


BS, Physical Therapy, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
PhD, Anatomy, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX

Licensure and Certifications

Education/Training Program Affiliations

Biosciences Graduate Program
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Translational Biomedicine
Medical Scientist Training Program

Research Summary

Pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, immunology, ion channels, second messengers, glutamate, serotonin, fatigue. My research focuses on the peripheral and central neuronal mechanisms in the development and maintenance of musculoskeletal pain. We use animal models of acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain that produce behavioral signs such as limping and guarding of the limb and an increased response to noxious stimuli, hyperalgesia. Our laboratory is currently focusing on the acid sensing ion channels (ASICs) in the peripheral nervous system, and in synoviocytes lining the joint. We are also focusing on the supraspinal mechanisms underlying musculoskeletal pain including interactions between hyperalgesia and fatigue. Supraspinally we are examining brainstem and cortical sites involved in injury-induced pain behaviors with particular attention to the role of NMDA receptor subunits, phosphorylation of these subunits, and the serotonin system. A second area of research has focused on deciphering the neurobiological mechanisms behind how transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) reduces pain. TENS is commonly used clinically as a non-invasive, adjunct therapy for pain control. Recently we began to decipher the pharmacological and anatomical pathways involved in the analgesia produced by TENS; the effects of repeated application of TENS, and combining TENS with common pharmaceuticals for the treatment of pain. Recently, we have begun to translate finding in animals to healthy human subjects, and are conducting clinical trials on efficacy of TENS in chronic pain populations.

Selected Publications

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Alves I, da Cruz K, Mota C, de Santana D, Gaujac D, de Carvalho V, Reis L, Sluka K, Quintans-Junior L, Antoniolli A, Desantana J, Badauê-Passos D, de Santana-Filho V.  Experimental hypothyroidism during pregnancy affects nociception and locomotor performance of offspring in rats..  Eur J Pain.  2013 March 27. 

Lu Y, Whiteis C, Sluka K, Chapleau M, Abboud F.  Responses of Glomus Cells to Hypoxia and Acidosis are Uncoupled, Reciprocal, and Linked to ASIC3 Expression (Selectivity of Chemosensory Transduction)..  J Physiol.  2012 November 19. 

Date Last Modified: 06/07/2014 - 21:56:23