Michael Robinson, Ph.D.

Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology

College of Health Professions

2002 Awardee

While most of us spend our lives simply trying to avoid pain, Michael Robinson has spent his career trying to understand it.

As the director for UF’s Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health, Robinson’s team is developing a greater understanding of the causes, diagnoses and treatments for pain conditions.

Robinson is involved in three main multidisciplinary pain research programs through the center: sex differences in pain perception; the mechanisms of placebo pain relief on certain types of pain; and treatment and assessment improvements for chronic pain conditions. The work is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Robinson and his colleagues have found that women report slightly higher levels of chronic pain than men. Researchers believe the difference between the sexes is a result of how society teaches men and women to deal with pain.

“We really believe that the minor sex differences in pain come from physiological factors and the larger differences result from social learning,” Robinson says. “This could carry long-term implications for how we teach male and female children in this culture to respond to pain.”

In addition to the gender study, the researchers are using functional magnetic resonance imaging technology to image the brain during pain states and painful stimulation to help determine the areas of the brain responsible for placebo pain relief.

They also are examining the relationship between depression and pain perception and the effects and effectiveness of opioids — narcotic pain relievers — in the treatment of chronic pain.

“This is an extremely important topic for research, given the recent controversies regarding opioid use and abuse for chronic pain conditions,” Robinson says.

As part of the research into the treatment of chronic pain, Robinson and his colleagues have developed innovative ways to measure pain perception, physical function and negative mood.