Melissa Farmer is a neuroscientist devoted to understanding the role of the brain in chronic pelvic pain. As a Research Assistant Professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, she is at the forefront of a new wave of researchers who are exploring the surprising ways that chronic pelvic pain—including interstitial cystitis, chronic prostatitis/chronic male pelvic pain, vulvodynia, endometriosis, and their comorbidities—change how the brain processes information, and these changes can re-shape the brain’s anatomy. Dr. Farmer brings a unique perspective to these questions—as a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. from McGill University, she was trained in sex therapy and chronic pain management while developing mouse models of persisting pain caused by repeated infections. She extended her work to neuroimaging during her postdoctoral studies at Northwestern, where she leads the Northwestern neuroimaging arm of the NIH’s multicenter research consortium, the Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Chronic Pelvic Pain, or MAPP for short. Dr. Farmer will discuss how pain becomes chronic, and how emotional and motor learning may play essential roles in chronic pelvic pain. She will also share her top suggestions for improving pain control and enhancing sexual arousal!
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