Recent progress in opioid research from an electrophysiological perspective

William T. Birdsong, John T. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Electrophysiological approaches provide powerful tools to further our understanding of how different opioids affect signaling through opioid receptors; how opioid receptors modulate circuitry involved in processes such as pain, respiration, addiction, and feeding; and how receptor signaling and circuits are altered by physiologic challenges, such as injury, stress, and chronic opioid treatment. The use of genetic manipulations to alter or remove m-opioid receptors (MORs) with anatomic and cell type specificity and the ability to activate or inhibit specific circuits through opto- or chemogenetic approaches are being used in combination with electrophysiological, pharmacological, and systems-level physiology experiments to expand our understanding of the beneficial and maladaptive roles of opioids and opioid receptor signaling. New approaches for studying endogenous opioid peptide signaling and release and the dynamics of these systems in response to chronic opioid use, pain, and stress will add another layer to our understanding of the intricacies of opioid modulation of brain circuits. This understanding may lead to new targets or approaches for drug development or treatment regimens that may affect both acute and long-term effects of manipulating the activity of circuits involved in opioid-mediated physiology and behaviors. This review will discuss recent advancements in our understanding of the role of phosphorylation in regulating MOR signaling, as well as our understanding of circuits and signaling pathways mediating physiologic behaviors such as respiratory control, and discuss how electrophysiological tools combined with new technologies have and will continue to advance the field of opioid research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-409
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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