Biosciences Graduate Program

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 Molecular and Cellular Biology
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. We have extended these studies and are examining the effects of regular physical activity (excercise) on the development of chronic muscle pain. We are examining central nervous system and immune system contributions to the analgesia produced by regular physical activity. A third 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. Currently, we are translating findings from our animal laboratory to human subjects. We are currently performing a two-site clinical trial studying the efficacy of TENS in people with fibromyalgia.

Selected Publications

Show All

Gregory N, Sluka K.  Anatomical and Physiological Factors Contributing to Chronic Muscle Pain.  Springer.  2014. 20:327-348.

Sluka K, Mense S.  Animal Models of Muscle Pain.  IASP Press.  2013 October. 

Gregory N, Harris A, Robinson C, Dougherty P, Fuchs P, Sluka K.  An Overview of Animal Models of Pain: Disease Models and Outcome Measures..  J Pain.  2013 September. 

Gardner S, Blodgett N, Hillis S, Borhart E, Mallory L, Abbott L, Pezzella P, Jensen M, Sommer T, Sluka K, Rakel B.  HI-TENS Reduces Moderate-to-Severe Pain Associated with Wound Care Procedures: A Pilot Study..  Biol Res Nurs.  2013 August 15. 

Gregory N, Gibson-Corley K, Frey Law L, Sluka K.  Fatigue-enhanced hyperalgesia in response to muscle insult: induction and development occur in a sex-dependent manner..  Pain.  2013 July 29. 154(12):2668-76.

Santos C, Francischi J, Lima-Paiva P, Sluka K, Resende M.  Effect of transcutaneous electrical stimulation on nociception and edema induced by peripheral serotonin.  Int J Neurosci.  2013 July. 123(7):507-515.

Sluka K, Bjordal J, Marchand S, Rakel B.  What Makes Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Work? Making Sense of the Mixed Results in the Clinical Literature.  Phys Ther.  2013 July. 

Sluka K.  Effects of physical activity on laboratory pain: Studies on animals.  Taylor and Francis.  2013 June 5. 

Pratt D, Fuchs P, Sluka K.  Assessment of avoidance behaviors in mouse models of muscle pain.  Neuroscience.  2013 June. 

Sluka K, Arendt-Nielsen L.  Widespread Chronic Pain: Underlying Mechanisms and Clinical Implications.  Springer.  2013. 

Date Last Modified: 09/23/2014 - 08:50:47