Benedict Kolber

Associate Professor
Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences

260 Mellon Hall
Phone: 412.396.1704


Postdoc, Pain, Washington University in St. Louis, 2011
Ph.D., Neuroscience, Washington University in St. Louis, 2008
B.S., Biology and Psychology, University of Dayton, 2003


Dr. Kolber serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Research and Education Coordinator for the Chronic Pain Research Consortium.  Dr. Kolber came to Duquesne in 2011 from Washington University in St. Louis.  Dr. Kolber has over 15 years experience doing neuroscience research.  

His graduate work with Dr. Louis Muglia, M.D., Ph.D. looked at the role of the endocrine stress response in the modulation of stress adaptation, depression, and anxiety.  His post-doctoral work with Dr. Robert Gereau IV, Ph.D. focused on understanding the role of the amygdala in the modulation of acute and chronic pain.  Dr. Kolber also has extensive experience teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level.  His teaching interests focus on teaching neuroscience, endocrinology, physiology, and in utilizing innovative teaching techniques in the classroom.  

  • Pain and Sensory Biology
  • Integrative Health for Chronic Pain
  • Neuroendocrinology
  • Stress Biology
  • Undergraduate Research Pedagogy
Basic Science


In the U.S., more than 115 million adults suffer from chronic pain.  Often, successful management of chronic pain involves the treatment of other conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders.  In the Kolber lad, we try to understand the common mechanisms of chronic pain and psychiatric illness.  This is done by integrating cutting-edge behavioral, pharmacological, electrophysiological, and molecular techniques to understand the mechanisms of stress and pain.

Most of our work is focused on studying the amygdala, which is a small structure in the brain involved in processing stressful stimuli, modulating reactions to a stressor, and modulating pain responses.  Depending on the emotional state of an organism, activation of the amygdala can either increase or decrease pain.  We are trying to understand the molecular and cellular components of this processing.  The precise types of pain that we are interested in understanding include disorders with a clear connection to stress (e.g. fibromyalgia) as well as those that are less commonly associated with emotional dysregulation (e.g. painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis). 

An additional focus in the lab is on identifying novel therapies for pain and depression. This includes basic science drug discovery of novel pharmaceuticals from nature and modifications of existing drugs. These projects involve extensive collaborations at Duquesne University (e.g. drug discovery from the ocean with Dr. Kevin Tidgewell, Pharmacy), nationally (e.g. drug discovery utilizing polymers of existing drugs to extend analgesic effects with Dr. Saadyah Averick (Allegheny General), Dr. Lei Yu (Rutgers), Dr. Kathryn Uhrich (UC Riverside)), and internationally (e.g. drug discovery from terrestrial plants with Dr. Telesphore Nguelefack (University Dschang)).

Approaches used in the lab include behavioral tests (e.g. nociceptive tests, anxiety tests, depression tests, learning and memory tasks), physiology (e.g. in vivo recording from the brain, EMG recording during peripheral stimulation), optogenetics, genetic manipulation (e.g. disrupting or activating genes using viral constructs), and molecular/cellular techniques (e.g. PCR, RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, Western analysis, cell culture, and cloning).

Trainees working in the basic science lab receive a broad-based training in behavior, neuroanatomy, surgical techniques, and molecular biology.  This training regiment provides a strong foundation for future success in research and medicine.

Human Research

In the Kolber lab, we are interested in the application of our basic science mechanistic studies to the human condition. Our translational research is focused on understanding and applying non-pharmacological treatments in chronic pain. These studies stem from our animal studies of physical exercise for treating pain and the numerous studies showing that physical exercise is a valuable integrative therapy in treating complex pain in human patients.

We study the impact of exercise dose in modulating baseline pain responses in healthy human participants and the therapeutic interaction between physical exercise and mindfulness meditation in treating chronic low back pain. These studies involve critical collaborations at Duquesne University (Dr. Matthew Kostek and Dr. Kimberly Szucs, Rangos) and in the Pittsburgh region (Dr. Eric Helm and Dr. Natalia Morone (University of Pittsburgh)). 

Techniques in these studies involve human quantitative sensory testing, psychophysical testing, and qualitative assessment of pain. 

Trainees working in the clinical research space receive a broad-based training in clinical trial management, human studies ethics, human pain testing, and translational research. This training regiment provides a strong foundation for future success in research and medicine.


Polaski AM, Phelps AL, Kostek MC, Szucs KA & B Kolber (2019) Exercise-induced hypoalgesia: A meta-analysis of exercise dosing for the treatment of chronic pain. PLoS ONE 14(1): e0210418.

Baktay J, Miller Neilan R, Behun M, McQuaid N & B Kolber (2019). Modeling neural behavior and pain during bladder distention using an agent-based model of the central nucleus of the amygdala. SPORA 5(1): 1-13.

Lax N, Parker SA, Hilton E, Seliman Y, Tidgewell K & B Kolber (2018). Cyanobacterial extract with serotonin receptor subtype 7 (5-HT7R) affinity modulates depression and anxiety-like behavior in mice. Synapse Jul 10:e22059. doi: 10.1002/syn.22059

Lax N, Chen R, Leep S, Uhrich K, Yu L & B Kolber (2017). PolyMorphine provides extended analgesic-like effects in mice with spared nerve injury. Molecular Pain 13: 1744806917743479. doi: 10.1177/1744806917743479

Sadler KE, Gartland N, Cavanaugh J & B Kolber (2017). Central amygdala activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and age-dependent changes in inflammatory pain sensitivity in mice. Neurobio of Aging 56: 100-107. doi:

B Kolber (2017). It's what's on the inside that counts: Evidence for intracellular GPCR signaling in inflammatory pain. PAIN April 2017 158 (4): 541-542. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000843

Sadler K, McQuaid N, Cox C, Behun M, Trouten A, & B Kolber (2017). Divergent functions of the left and right central amygdala in visceral nociception. PAIN April 2017 158(4): 747-759. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000830

Kostek M, Polaski A, Kolber B, Ramsey A, Kranjec A & K Szucs (2016). A Protocol of Manual Tests to Measure Sensation and Pain in Humans. Journal of Visual Experimentation (118), e54130. doi:10.3791/54130

Lax NG, Morris J & B Kolber (2016). A partial-flip classroom exercise in a large introductory general biology course increases performance at multiple levels. Journal of Biological Education Nov 2016: 1-15.

Wolz M, Sadler K, Long C, Brenner D, Kim B, Gereau IV, R & B Kolber (2016). Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation after human cold pain testing. PAIN Reports 1: e569. doi: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000569

Long C, Sadler K & B Kolber (2016). Hormonal and molecular effects of restraint stress on formalin-induced pain-like behavior in male and female mice. Physiology and Behavior 165: 278-285. doi:

Kolber B*, Janjic J, Pollock J & K Tidgewell* (2016). The Pain Undergraduate Research Experience: Interacting with community partners to build a specialized and enhanced biomedical research program. BMC Medical Education 2016 May 4;16(1):135. doi: 10.1186/s12909-016-0648-7 *Equal contribution

Lax NC, KT Ahmed, Ignatz CM UG, Spadafora C, Kolber B* & KT Tidgewell* (2016). Marine cyanobacteria-derived serotonin receptor 2C active fraction induces behavioral effects in mice. Pharmaceutical Biology 2016 May 14:1-9. doi: 10.1080/13880209.2016.1181659 *Equal contribution

Sadler KS & Kolber B (2016). Urine trouble: Alterations in brain function associated with bladder pain. Journal of Urology 2016 Feb 22. pii: S0022-5347(16)00365-7. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2015.10.198

Kolber B (2015). mGluRs from head to toe in pain. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, 131: 281- 324. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2014.12.003.; PMID: 25744677

Kolber B**, Konsolaki M**, Verzi M, Wagner C, McCormick J, & K Schindler** (2014). Sex-specific differences in Meiosis: Real-world applications. CourseSource 00:xxx. doi:00.0000/journal.cs.000000 **Equal contribution.

Lax N, George D, Ignatz C, & B Kolber (2014). The mGluR5 antagonist fenobam induces analgesic conditioned place preference in mice with spared nerve injury. PLoS One 2014 Jul 25;9(7):e103524. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103524

Nolan T, Geffert L, Kolber B, Madura J & Surratt C (2014). Discovery of Novel-Scaffold Monoamine Transporter Ligands via in Silico Screening with the S1 Pocket of the Serotonin Transporter. ACS Chemical Neuroscience 2014 Jul 15. doi: 10.1021/cn500133b

Sadler K, Stratton J & B Kolber (2014). Urinary bladder distention evoked visceromotor responses as a model for bladder pain in mice. Journal of Visual Experimentation 2014 Apr 27;(86). doi: 10.3791/51413.

Sadler K, Stratton J & B Kolber (2013). Optimization of a pain model: Effects of body temperature and anesthesia on bladder nociception in mice. PLoS One 2013 Nov 5;8(11):e79617. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079617

Kolber B**, Crock L**, Morgan C, Sadler K, Vogt S, Bruchas M & R Gereau IV (2012). Central amygdala mGluR5 in the modulation of visceral pain. Journal of Neuroscience Oct 10;32(41):14217-26. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1473-12.2012 **Co-first authors. Crock listed first on Pubmed.

Dong H, Murphy K, Meng L, Kolber B, Zhang S, Holtzman D, Muglia L & J Csernansky (2012). Corticotrophin releasing factor accelerates neuropathology and cognitive decline in a mouse model of Alzheimer disease. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease Jan 1;28(3):579-92. PMID: 22045495  doi: 10.3233/JAD-2011-111328

Arnett M, Kolber B, Boyle M & L Muglia (2011). Behavioral insights from mouse models of forebrain- and amygdala-specific glucocorticoid receptor genetic disruption. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology Apr 10;336(1-2):2-5. Epub 2010 Nov 20. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2010.11.011 PMID 21094675

Montana M, Conrardy B, Cavallone L, Kolber B, Rao L, Greco S & R Gereau (2011). Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 antagonism with fenobam: Examination of analgesic tolerance and side effect profile in mice. Anesthesiology Epub 2011 Oct 27 2011; Dec;115(6):1239-50. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e318238c051PMID 22037639 / PMCID 3226928

Kolber B (2011). Extended problem-based learning improves scientific communication in senior-biology students. Journal of College Science Teaching 41(1): 32-39.

Liu Q, Zhang J, Zerbinatti C, Zhan Y, Kolber B, Herz J, Muglia L & G Bu (2011). Lipoprotein receptor LRP1 regulates leptin signaling and energy homeostasis in the adult central nervous system. PLoS Biology Jan 11; 9(1):e1000575. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000575 PMID 21264353 / PMCID 3019112

Kolber B, Montana M, Carrasquillo Y, Xu J, Heinemann S, Muglia L & R Gereau (2010). Activation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 in the amygdala modulates pain-like behavior. Journal of Neuroscience 30(24): 8203-8213. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1216-10.2010 PMID 20554871 / PMCID 2898903

Kolber B, Howell M, Wieczorek L, Kelley C, Onwuzurike C, Nettles S, Vogt S & L Muglia (2010). Transient early forebrain CRH elevation causes lasting anxiogenic and despair-like changes in mice. Journal of Neuroscience 30(7): 2571-2581. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4470-09.2010  PMID 20164342 / PMCID 2969849

Kolber B & L Muglia (2008). Defining brain region-specific glucocorticoid action during stress by conditional gene disruption in mice. Brain Research Oct 13; 1293: 85-90. Epub 2009 Apr 8. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.03.061 PMID 19361487 / PMCID 2821940

Kolber B, Wieczorek L & L Muglia (2008). Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation and behavioral analysis of mouse mutants with altered glucocorticoid or mineralocorticoid receptor function. Stress Jun 13: 321-338.  doi: 10.1080/10253890701821081 PMID 18609295 / PMCID 2744095

Kolber B, Roberts M, Howell M, Wozniak D, Sands M & L Muglia (2008). Central amygdala glucocorticoid receptor action promotes fear conditioning through a CRH-dependent network. PNAS 105(33): 12004-12009. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0803216105 PMID 18695245 / PMCID 2575312

Boyle M, Kolber B, Vogt S, Wozniak D & L Muglia (2006). Forebrain glucocorticoid receptors modulate anxiety-associated locomotor activation and adrenal responsiveness. Journal of Neuroscience 26(7): 1971-1978. PMID 16481429

PURE-NURE and Courses

Pain Undergraduate Research Experience and Neurodegenerative Undergraduate Research Experience Summer Research Programs

Served as co-director and developer of undergraduate summer research PURE and NURE programs since 2014. Undergraduate students interested in working in the lab for these programs are encouraged to contact Dr. Kolber.  Deadlines for the PURE and NURE programs are typically in February each year. 

Courses Taught at Duquesne

  • Endocrinology (Bio 460/560)

  • General Biology I (Bio 111/111L)

  • Introduction to Graduate Research (Bio 695)

  • Advanced Topics in Biology (Bio 646)