Faculty Focus - Karen Davis

Karen Davis, PhD

Dr. Karen Davis obtained her PhD from the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto in 1988 and went on to complete a post-doctoral fellowship at John Hopkins University. She was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery in 1995 and joined the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto in 1996, where she was its Graduate Coordinator from 2002-2008 and Associate Director between 2009 and 2012.

Dr. Davis is founding member of the University of Toronto Centre for the Study of Pain and currently sits on its Executive Committee. She is also currently Professor at the Department of Surgery and Head and Senior Scientist of the Division of Brain, Imaging and Behaviour – Systems Neuroscience at Toronto Western Research Institute.

Dr. Davis’s early work involved single cell electrophysiology, with discoveries of brain neurons that encode vascular headaches, primary afferent “silent” nociceptors capable of chemical and injury-induced sensitization, and human cortical neurons encoding pain and attention. Over the last 20 years, her research lab has used a variety of novel and innovative PET and MR-based structural and functional imaging techniques to study the brain mechanisms associated with pain, plasticity and the impact of traumatic injuries.

In addition to publishing over 130 highly cited papers and delivering over 140 invited lectures, Dr. Davis’s TED-Ed video “How does your brain respond to pain?” has been viewed over 500 000 times. In 2009, she was inducted into the John Hopkins Society of Scholars, which honours former post-doctoral fellows who have made distinctive impacts in their field. Dr. Davis also served as section editor for the international journal Pain, sits on journal editorial boards, and was a Mayday Pain and Society Fellow. Dr. Davis has a strong interest in mentorship, research ethics, having created a graduate student oath (published in Science), and in neuroethics pertaining to brain imaging. She currently sits on the CIHR Advisory Board for the Institute of Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction (and serves as Vice-Chair) and the Council of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

Current Appointments

  • Professor, Department of Surgery
  • Head, Division of Brain, Imaging & Behaviour – Systems Neuroscience, Toronto Western Research Institute
  • Senior Scientist, Division of Brain, Imaging & Behaviour – Systems Neuroscience, Toronto Western Research Institute 

Selected Distinctions

  • John Hopkins University Society of Scholars
  • Canada Research Chair, Brain and Behaviour (Tier II)

Selected Publications

  • Kucyi A, Moayedi M, Weissman-Fogel I, Goldberg MB, Freeman BV, Tenenbaum HC, Davis KD. (2014) Enhanced medial prefrontal-default mode network functional connectivity in chronic pain and its association with pain rumination. J Neurosci. 12;34(11):3969-75.
  • Kucyi, A., Salomons, T. V., Davis, K. D. (2013). Mind wandering away from pain dynamically engages antinociceptive and default mode brain networks. Proc Nat Acad Sci, 110(46),18692–18697.
  • DeSouza DD, Hodaie M, Davis KD. (2014) Abnormal trigeminal nerve microstructure and brain white matter in idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia. Pain. 2014 Jan;155(1):37-44.
  • Wu Q, Inman RD, Davis KD. Neuropathic pain in ankylosing spondylitis: a psychophysics and brain imaging study. Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2013;65:1494-1503.pulposus cells from degradation and apoptosis: implications for the mechanisms of intervertebral disc degeneration. Arthritis Res Thr. 2011;13(6):R215. Epub 2011 Dec 29.
  • Iannetti GD, Salomons TV, Moayedi M, Mouraux A, Davis K.D. Beyond metaphor: Contrasting mechanisms of social and physical pain. Trends in Cognitive Science. 2013;17:371-378.
  • Moayedi, M., Weissman-Fogel, I., Salomons, T., Crawley, A., Goldberg, M., Freeman, B., Tenenbaum, H., & Davis, K. D. (2012). White matter brain and trigeminal nerve abnormalities in temporomandibular disorder. Pain, 153, 1467-1477.
  • Weissman-Fogel, I., Moayedi, M., Tenenbaum, H. C., Goldberg, M. B., Freeman, B. V., & Davis, K. D. (2011). Abnormal cortical activity in patients with temporomandibular disorder evoked by cognitive and emotional tasks. Pain, 152, 384-396.
  • Taylor, K. S., Anastakis, D. J., & Davis, K. D. (2009). Cutting your nerve changes your brain. Brain, 132, 3122-3133.
  • Taylor, K. S., Seminowicz, D. A., & Davis, K. D. (2009). Two Systems of Resting State Connectivity between the Insula and Cingulate Cortex. Human Brain Mapping, 30, 2731-2745.
  • Hashmi JA, Davis K.D. Women experience greater heat pain adaptation and habituation than men. Pain. 2009;145:350-357.
  • Davis, K. D., Seeman, M. V., Chapman, J., & Rotstein, O. D. (2008). A graduate student oath. Science, 320(5883), 1587-8.
  • Downar, J., Crawley. A. P., Mikulis, D. J., & Davis K. D. (2000). A multimodal cortical network for the detection of changes in the sensory environment. Nat Neuro 3(3), 277-83.
  • WD Hutchison, K.D. Davis, AM Lozano, RR Tasker, JO Dostrovsky. (1999). Pain-related neurons in the human cingulate cortex. Nature neuroscience 2 (5), 403-405.
  • Davis, K. D., Kiss, Z.H., Luo, L, Tasker, R. R., Lozano, A. M., & Dostrovsky, J. O. (1998). Phantom sensations generated by thalamic microstimulation. Nature 391(6665), 385-7.