Catherine Cahill, Ph.D.

A Short Biography:

Catherine M. Cahill, Ph.D. trained as an opioid neuropharmaoclogist at Dalhousie University receiving her MSc in 1992 and her PhD in 1996. She has more than 25 years experience in research that focuses on understanding mechanisms of chronic pain and opioid analgesia, tolerance, dependence and addiction. She was recruited to the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care at University of California Irvine in 2012 from Queen’s University in Canada where she held a Canada Research Chair in Chronic Pain for 10 years. She moved to UCLA in 2017 and is now a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and a member of the Hatos Center for Neuropharmacology at the University of California Los Angeles. Her research spans both basic science and human research, which focuses on how chronic pain states modulate reward circuitry and changes dopaminergic transmission responsible for motivated behavior. A large emphasis of her research focuses on understanding the processes that influence the positive and negative reinforcement and changes in mesolimbic circuitry in order to identify novel treatment strategies for opioid dependence and chronic pain. She has received teaching awards and was a recent recipient of the Hugill Anaesthesiology Award. She is on the scientific planning committee for various national and international conferences including the World Congress on Pain, the Canadian Pain Society, and the International Narcotic Research Conference and currently is a reviewer for NSA panel at CIHR and a panel member for study sections at the National Institutes of Health under the Heal Initiative. Her research is currently funded by an NIH P50 center grant, the Hatos Foundation and the Department of Defense.

Work Titles
UCLA Professor, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences Member, Neuroscience GPB Home Area

Contact Information:

Email Address:


Complete publications

Work Phone Number:


Work Address:

675 Charles E Young Drive South, Office 2760/lab 2609
Mail Code: 175919
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Research Interest:

Pain and Addiction

Dr. Cahill's research aims to understand the neurobiology of chronic pain and seeks novel ways to alleviate it.  She also studies how chronic pain changes the brain, especially in areas known to be important for emotion, fear and motivation. A further emphasis of her research is on opioid addiciton, especially identifying suceptibilities and changes in the brain that are associated with occurrence of chronic pain.

Chronic pain and co-morbidities

Chronic pain is a disease that encompasses both sensory and emotional elements. Opioids are highly effective analgesics because they target both of these elements, by inhibiting pain pathways and alleviating negative affect (including depression) by engaging reward or hedonic pathways.  Neuroinflammation is a common phenomenon associated with chronic pain and prolonged opioid use, which contributes to pain sensitization and negative affect (anxiety and depression).  Similarly, the kappa opioid system is responsible for dysphoric states and is upregulated in chronic pain states and with prolonged opioid use. Dr. Cahill's research aims to understand how neuroinflammation and kappa systems contribute to negative affective states with the goal of improving pain treatment outcomes and substance use disorders.  Her research uses behavioral neuroscience, imaging, anatomy and biochemistry to understand mechanisms of chronic pain and opioid misuse in chronic pain states.


A selected list of publications:

Hakimian Joshua K, Dong Tien S, Barahona Jorge A, Lagishetty Venu, Tiwari Suchi, Azani Darien, Barrera Matthew, Lee Suhjin, Severino Amie L, Mittal Nitish, Cahill Catherine M, Jacobs Jonathan P, Walwyn Wendy M   Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Reduces Opioid-Seeking Behaviors and Alters the Gut Microbiome Nutrients, 2019; 11(8): .
Liu Shiwei Steve, Pickens Sarah, Burma Nicole E, Ibarra-Lecue Ines, Yang Hongyan, Xue Lihua, Cook Chris, Hakimian Joshua K, Severino Amie L, Lueptow Lindsay, Komarek Kristina, Taylor Anna M W, Olmstead Mary C, Carroll F Ivy, Bass Caroline E, Andrews Anne M, Walwyn Wendy, Trang Tuan, Evans Christopher J, Leslie Frances M, Cahill Catherine M   Kappa Opioid Receptors Drive a Tonic Aversive Component of Chronic Pain The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2019; 39(21): 4162-4178.
Massaly Nicolas, Copits Bryan A, Wilson-Poe Adrianne R, Hipólito Lucia, Markovic Tamara, Yoon Hye Jean, Liu Shiwei, Walicki Marie C, Bhatti Dionnet L, Sirohi Sunil, Klaas Amanda, Walker Brendan M, Neve Rachael, Cahill Catherine M, Shoghi Kooresh I, Gereau Robert W, McCall Jordan G, Al-Hasani Ream, Bruchas Michael R, Morón Jose A   Pain-Induced Negative Affect Is Mediated via Recruitment of The Nucleus Accumbens Kappa Opioid System Neuron, 2019; 102(3): 564-573.e6.
Kibaly Cherkaouia, Xu Chi, Cahill Catherine M, Evans Christopher J, Law Ping-Yee   Non-nociceptive roles of opioids in the CNS: opioids' effects on neurogenesis, learning, memory and affect Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 2019; 20(1): 5-18.
Comer Sandra D, Cahill Catherine M   Fentanyl: Receptor pharmacology, abuse potential, and implications for treatment Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 2018; 20(1): 5-18.
Grenier Patrick, Wiercigroch David, Olmstead Mary C, Cahill Catherine M   Dissociation between morphine-induced spinal gliosis and analgesic tolerance by ultra-low-dose α2-adrenergic and cannabinoid CB1-receptor antagonists Behavioural pharmacology, 2018; 29(2 and 3-Spec Issue): 241-254.
Taylor Anna M W, Castonguay Annie, Taylor Alison J, Murphy Niall P, Ghogha Atefeh, Cook Christopher, Xue Lihua, Olmstead Mary C, De Koninck Yves, Evans Christopher J, Cahill Catherine M   Microglia disrupt mesolimbic reward circuitry in chronic pain The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2015; 35(22): 8442-50.
Evans Christopher J, Cahill Catherine M   Neurobiology of opioid dependence in creating addiction vulnerability F1000Research, 2016; 5: .
Trang Tuan, Al-Hasani Ream, Salvemini Daniela, Salter Michael W, Gutstein Howard, Cahill Catherine M   Pain and Poppies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Opioid Analgesics The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2015; 35(41): 13879-88.
Ferrini Francesco, Trang Tuan, Mattioli Theresa-Alexandra M, Laffray Sophie, Del'Guidice Thomas, Lorenzo Louis-Etienne, Castonguay Annie, Doyon Nicolas, Zhang Wenbo, Godin Antoine G, Mohr Daniela, Beggs Simon, Vandal Karen, Beaulieu Jean-Martin, Cahill Catherine M, Salter Michael W, De Koninck Yves   Morphine hyperalgesia gated through microglia-mediated disruption of neuronal Cl⁻ homeostasis Nature neuroscience, 2013; 16(2): 183-92.
Cahill Catherine M, Walwyn Wendy, Taylor Anna M W, Pradhan Amynah A A, Evans Christopher J   Allostatic Mechanisms of Opioid Tolerance Beyond Desensitization and Downregulation Trends in pharmacological sciences, 2016; 37(11): 963-976.
Taylor Anna M W, Castonguay Annie, Ghogha Atefeh, Vayssiere Pia, Pradhan Amynah A A, Xue Lihua, Mehrabani Sadaf, Wu Juli, Levitt Pat, Olmstead Mary C, De Koninck Yves, Evans Christopher J, Cahill Catherine M   Neuroimmune Regulation of GABAergic Neurons Within the Ventral Tegmental Area During Withdrawal from Chronic Morphine Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2016; 41(4): 949-59.

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