Dr Carole Torsney

Our main research focus is investigation of altered tactile and pain processing (somatosensory plasticity) that occurs in chronic pain conditions and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Dr Carole Torsney


Hugh Robson Building

15 George Square

Edinburgh EH8 9XD

Contact details

 Work: +44 (0)131 650 9881

 Email: Carole.Torsney@ed.ac.uk


  • Section Editor Anesthesia & Analgesia
  • Reviewing Editor of The Journal of Physiology
  • The Physiological Society Local Representative https://www.physoc.org/
  • Neurodiversity & Disability Lead Biomedical Sciences Opportunities Committee
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Personal profile

  • 2022 - Present: Reader, University of Edinburgh
  • 2018 - 2022: Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh
  • 2012 - 2018: Lecturer, University of Edinburgh
  • 2009 - 2012: Senior Academic Fellowship, University of Edinburgh
  • 2006 - 2009: Caledonian Research Fellowship, University of Edinburgh
  • 2002 - 2005: Postdoctoral position with Professor Amy MacDermott, Columbia University
  • 1998 - 2002: Wellcome Trust Neuroscience four-yr PhD with Professor Maria Fitzgerald, University College London

Research Theme


The somatosensory system endows us with a strong tactile connection to the external world in tandem with a pain warning system to protect us from harm. This enables us to safely interact and richly experience the world and loved ones. My research focusses on injury-induced plasticity of this system that drives chronic pain conditions and also neurodevelopmental disorders in which there is a perturbation of this system. My lab’s research on somatosensory neural circuits spans from synaptic analysis to whole animal behaviour and is integrated within the ‘Synapses, Circuits and Behaviour’ theme within the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences. I am also a member of the Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain and the Edinburgh Skin Network.

Chronic Pain:

Chronic pain conditions are poorly managed with current treatment options having abuse potential (opioid crisis). A better mechanistic understanding of the underlying circuits and plasticity is required for future analgesic drug development. My lab investigates this plasticity using anatomical, electrophysiological and behavioural approaches in preclinical models with a key focus on peripheral nerve and spinal processing. This research is conducted in both sexes because females are more likely to suffer from pain conditions and experience more severe pain with evidence, including our own, suggesting sex differences in underlying mechanisms.

Neurodevelopmental disorders:

In neurodevelopmental disorders there can be perturbation of the somatosensory system with altered tactile and pain reactivity. The somatosensory system undergoes substantial postnatal development and my lab is researching the impact of neurodevelopmental gene mutations on the development and function of somatosensory circuits using anatomical, electrophysiological, optogenetic and behavioural approaches.

Molecular mechanisms of myelinated axon function:

This collaborative work with Professor Dies Meijer investigates the molecular mechanisms that regulate the development of and localisation on ion channels within myelinated afferents that is essential for peripheral nerves to communicate information about the external world and our interaction with it.


Team members



Wilson K, Sze Y, Regan A, Zhu C, Mazur K, Velichkova A, Torsney C. Post-surgical tactile-evoked pain: a role for BDNF-TrkB dependent novel tactile corpuscles. Pain Reports 2024 In Press

Bridges EC, Torsney C, Bates TC, Luciano M. Childhood Reading Ability and Pain in Childhood through to Midlife. J Pain. 2024 Apr 3:S1526-5900(24)00438-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2024.03.014.

Kozar-Gillan, N., A. Velichkova, G. Kanatouris, Y. Eshed-Eisenbach, G. Steel, M. Jaegle, E. Aunin, E. Peles, C. Torsney and D. N. Meijer (2023). LGI3/2-ADAM23 interactions cluster Kv1 channels in myelinated axons to regulate refractory period. J Cell Biol 222. e202211031

Velichkova, A. N., S. E. Coleman and C. Torsney (2022). Postoperative pain facilitates rat C-fibre activity-dependent slowing and induces thermal hypersensitivity in a sex-dependent manner. Br J Anaesth 128: 718-733.

Jarjour AA, Velichkova AN, Boyd A, Lord KM, Torsney C, Henderson DJ, Ffrench-Constant C. The formation of paranodal spirals at the ends of CNS myelin sheaths requires the planar polarity protein Vangl2. Glia. 2020

Torsney C. Inflammatory pain neural plasticity. Current Opinion in Physiology. 2019 11(51-57)

Galley HF, Barry McCormick B,Wilson KL, Lowes DA, Colvin, L, Torsney C. Melatonin limits paclitaxel-induced mitochondrial dysfunction in vitro and protects against paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain in the rat. J. Pineal Res. 2017;e12444

Dickie AC, McCormick B, Lukito V, Wilson KL, Torsney C. Inflammatory Pain Reduces C Fibre Activity-Dependent Slowing in a Sex-Dependent Manner, Amplifying Nociceptive Input to the Spinal Cord. J Neurosci. 2017 Jul 5;37(27):6488-6502

McCormick B, Lowes DA, Colvin C, Torsney C, Galley HF. MitoVitE limits paclitaxel-induced oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage in vitro, and paclitaxel-induced mechanical hypersensitivity in vivo. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 117:659-666, 2016.

Dickie AC and Torsney C. The chemerin receptor 23 agonist, chemerin, attenuates monosynaptic C-fibre input to lamina I neurokinin 1 receptor expressing rat spinal cord neurons in inflammatory pain. Mol Pain 10:24, 2014

Torsney C and Fleetwood-Walker S. Pain mechanisms (peripheral/central sensitisation). ABC of Pain: First Edition Wiley-Blackwell, Chapter 2. Pages 5-10. 2012

Torsney C. Inflammatory pain unmasks heterosynaptic facilitation in lamina I neurokinin 1 receptor-expressing neurons in rat spinal cord. J Neurosci 31(13):5158-68, 2011

Geranton SM, Jimenez-Diaz L, Torsney C, Tochiki KK, Stuart SA, Leith JL, Lumb BM, Hunt SP. A rapamycin-sensitive signalling pathway is essential for the full expression of persistent pain states. J Neurosci Nov 25 2009; 29(47):15017-27

Pattinson D, Baccei M, Karadottir R, Torsney C, Moss A, McCutcheon J, Giese KP, Fitzgerald M. Aberrant dendritic branching and sensory inputs in the superficial dorsal horn of mice lacking CaMKIIalpha autophosphorylation. Mol Cell Neurosci. Jul 26 2006

Torsney C, Anderson RL, Ryce-Paul K-AG and MacDermott AB. Characterization of sensory neuron subpopulations selectively expressing green fluorescent protein in phosphodiesterase 1C BAC transgenic mice. Molecular Pain. 2006 May 8;2(1):17

Torsney C and MacDermott AB. Disinhibition opens the gate to pathological pain signaling in superficial neurokinin 1 receptor-expressing neurons in rat spinal cord. J Neurosci 2006 Feb 8:26(6):1833-43.

Torsney C and MacDermott AB. A Painful Factor. Nature. 2005 Dec 15;438:923-925.

Torsney C and MacDermott AB. AMPA receptors bring on the pain. Neuron. 2004 44(4):577-8.

Bardoni R, Torsney C, Tong CK, Prandini M, MacDermott AB. Presynaptic NMDA receptors modulate glutamate release from primary sensory neurons in rat spinal cord dorsal horn. J Neurosci. 2004 Mar 17;24(11):2774-81

Labrakakis C, Tong CK, Weissman T, Torsney C, MacDermott AB. Localization and function of ATP and GABAA receptors expressed by nociceptors and other postnatal sensory neurons in rat. J Physiol 549(1):131-42, 2003

Torsney C and Fitzgerald M. Spinal dorsal horn cell receptive field size is increased in adult rats following neonatal hindpaw skin injury. J Physiol 550(1): 255-61, 2003

Beggs S, Torsney C, Drew LJ and Fitzgerald M. The postnatal reorganisation of primary afferent terminals and dorsal horn cell receptive fields in the rat spinal cord is an activity-dependent process. Eur J Neurosci 16(7):1249-58, 2002

Torsney C & Fitzgerald M. Age-dependent effects of peripheral inflammation upon the electrophysiological properties of neonatal rat dorsal horn neurons. J Neurophysiol 87(3):1311-7, 2002

Torsney C, Meredith-Middleton J and Fitzgerald M. Neonatal capsaicin treatment prevents the normal postnatal withdrawal of A fibres from lamina II without affecting fos responses to innocuous peripheral stimulation. Dev Brain Res 121:55-65, 2000

Alvares D, Torsney C, Beland B, Reynolds M, Fitzgerald M. Modelling the prolonged effects of neonatal pain. Progr Brain Res 129:365-73, 2000 De Lima J, Hatch D and Torsney C. Nitrous oxide analgesia - a 'sting in the tail'. Anaesthesia 55:932-933, 2000

Torsney C. Nerve injury: treating the pain with GDNF. Neuroreport 11(17): 11, 2000

Information for students:

Willingness to discuss research projects with undergraduate and postgraduate students: YES - please click here