Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology
College of Public Health and Health Professions
Michael Robinson is a national leader in the field of pain psychology.
Specifically, he focuses on the cognitive factors affecting the individual’s experience of pain, pain processing and pain treatment. Notably, his research lab was one of the first to document and quantify the contribution of negative mood to the pain experience and pain processing of individuals with chronic pain.
“Prior to this line of work, most professionals considered pain to be a sensory experience,” Robinson said. “More recent work has explored these models in the context of functional brain imaging, demonstrating the complex relationships between sensory and emotional factors and mechanisms to the experience of pain.”
His lab has also been heavily involved in the investigation of pain measurement, as well as the way in which sex, age, and ethnicity influence pain perception, and the assessment of pain. Robinson and his team were the first group to demonstrate gender role mechanisms and explanations for the documented sex differences in pain experience and pain reporting.
“This field involves virtually all health disciplines and levels of understanding, from the molecule to the culture,” Robinson said. “Pain is a universal experience and a huge public health and private concern, so the possibilities for research and potential good are endless.”
Building off this foundation, Robinson is using virtual human technology and idiographic mathematical models to investigate sex, race and age biases in decisions about pain.
“We’re hoping our technology and methodology are being developed into an assessment and intervention tool to alter these differences in assessment and treatment for pain,” Robinson said.
In addition to his work in these areas, Robinson’s research also explores the psychological function of placebos as pain relief as well as the way in which pain conditions affect patient-centered outcomes in health care.
Robinson has received continuous NIH support for the past 20 years. His research is a significant portion of funding for the university’s Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health, of which he served as director for 25 years. Currently, Robinson manages $555,184 in research funding. Robinson has also published more than 350 peer reviewed, empirical articles in the major pain journals.
Notably, Robinson has received multiple awards for his mentorship and research leadership. He has repeatedly won awards from the department and college for his teaching excellence and has received many college faculty mentor and superior accomplishment awards.