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Pain Biology

Course Code: BIOL 4107
Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Biology
Credits: 4.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course focuses on the underlying biology of pain perception. Topics include the heritability of pain sensation, the neurophysiology of pain sensation, the evolutionary conservation of pain detection across animal species, human pain phenotypes, the genes underlying human pain sensation, and the discussion of the pain related phenotypes of nausea and itchiness.

Course Content

1. Introduction to Pain Genetics

  • Importance of understanding pain
  • Heritability of pain
  • Introduction to pain genes


2. The Neurophysiology of Pain Sensation

  • Review of neuronal physiology
  • Review of pain detection neuronal pathways
  • Role of opioids in mitigating pain


3. The Conservation of Pain Sensation (mammals,  Drosophila spp., Caenorhabditis elegans)

  • Mechanical pain
  • Heat detection
  • Chemical pain
  • Inflammatory pain
  • Neuropathic pain


4. Pain Phenotypes in Humans

  • Introduction of pain phenotypes
  • Measuring pain
  • Effects of sex and stress on pain detection


5. The Genes Underlying Human Pain Sensation

  • Overview of normal pain gene expression pathways
  • Genetic mutations causing abnormal pain sensation (including SCN9A, NTRK1 and NGF)
  • Regulation of opioid detection by mRNA splicing
  • Musculoskeletal pain conditions


6. Nausea and Itching

  • Review of the physiology underlying nausea and itchiness
  • Investigation of the ties between pain and nausea
  • Genetic factors associated with nausea
  • Genetic factors associated with itching


7. Data analysis & interpretation and experimental design

  • Analysis and interpretation of scientific data
  • Formulating hypotheses
  • Experimental design


Methods of Instruction

Lecture and laboratory instruction

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the following:

Evaluation Marks
Quizzes and assignments   15-25
Laboratory assignments 15-25
Midterm examination 25-35
Final examination 25-35
Total 100

Learning Outcomes

After completion of this course, students will be able to:

1.  explain the basic principles of pain detection

2.  describe and explain pain detection models in different animal species

3.  explain the different kinds of pain felt by humans

4.  explain how specific genes can affect pain sensation

5.  analyze scientific data, interpret them, formulate hypotheses and design future experiments that build upon the data studied

course prerequisites

BIOL 3621 and BIOL 3205



curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.