For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Megan Detloff

Megan Detloff, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department: Neurobiology & Anatomy


  • PhD - Neuroscience, The Ohio State University (2009)
  • BS - Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan (2002)

Megan Detloff, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine. After completing her PhD at The Ohio State University under the mentorship of D. Michele Basso, she came to the College of Medicine for a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of John Houlé.

Research Interests

Neuropathic pain, spinal cord injury, neuroimmune interactions, neuroplasticity, nociceptors, behavior


We study how injury and rehabilitative exercise modulates pain and sensorimotor function following spinal cord injury. We use a multidisciplinary approach which includes assessments of animal behavior, kinematics and electrophysiology as well as assessments of molecular changes in neuron and immune cell phenotypes. Active lines of research ongoing in the lab include:

Neuroimmune interactions associated with pain development after injury
Traumatic injury to the spinal cord induces a robust immune and inflammatory response at the site of primary injury. Recent evidence from our lab and others suggests that these responses are not limited to the site of injury, but rather extend to remote regions of the spinal cord, brain and dorsal root ganglia. We are focused on understanding how a specific type of immune cells called macrophages interact with pain-sensing neurons after injury to result in their dysfunction.

Nociceptor dysfunction associated with cerebral palsy and chronic pain
Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder that is often caused by injuries during prenatal development or birth. In addition to permanent motor impairments, individuals with CP often report chronic pain. We have begun to explore alterations in pain and sensory function as well as nociceptor plasticity in animal models of cerebral palsy.

Role of primary afferent plasticity in recovery of function after traumatic injury
Primary afferent input into the spinal cord is an important component for motor control. After injury, activity-dependent therapies like physical therapy and rehabilitation are the standard of care for individuals who have sustained a spinal cord injury. Rehabilitation paradigms often provide repetitive, primary afferent driven cues to spinal circuitry to drive motor output. In the lab, we use animal models of both injury and rehabilitation to understand how aerobic, resistance or range-of-motion exercises can induce plasticity or alterations in the anatomical and functional properties of primary afferent neurons and spinal cord circuitry that controls movements like reaching and grasping.

Current Lab Members

  • Jonathan Richards, PhD
  • John Walker, MS
    Neuroscience PhD Student
  • Jason Wheeler, MS
    Neuroscience PhD Student
  • Meredith Singer, MS
    Lab Manager
  • Grace Giddings
    Neuroscience PhD Student
  • Jordan Dowtin-Dorsey
    Post-Bacc Student
  • Ameer Ghaderi
    Post-Bacc Student
  • Andrea Roguer
    Post-Bacc Student

Lab Alumni

  • Soha Chhaya, BS, PhD
  • Daniel Freeman, BS/MS
  • Amy Ong, MS
  • Chloe Metz, BS

External Collaborators

  • Jeoung Soo Lee
    Department of Bioengineering, Clemson University
  • Katharina A. Quinlan
    George and Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, University of Rhode Island
  • John Bethea
    Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences

Personal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement

One of the challenges I face as faculty is to eradicate the pervasive, stereotypical image of a scientist as an older white man (with or without Einstein-like hair) wearing a lab coat. As a young person trying to find my way, I was given an opportunity and subsequently found neurotrauma. I can honestly say that the power of strong mentorship that included giving a young, inexperienced person an opportunity in an unknown field changed my trajectory. I have set up and run my lab to be a place of opportunity for individuals to discover if science and research is their purpose. I provide a positive and welcoming environment, where open discussion about ideas and opinions is encouraged. My only requirement is that everyone in the lab must agree to “disagree respectfully,” and that prejudice against anyone on the basis of their identity won’t be tolerated. At any time, my lab members range from high schoolers to retirees, come from diverse racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds and have varied educational focuses and interests that include: neuroscience, engineering, psychology, molecular biology, health sciences and even anthropology.

I come from a long line of schoolteachers, and I have been actively participating in community and school outreach programs related to STEM and neuroscience education since I was in school myself. With other graduate students of the Neuroscience Graduate Studies Program at Ohio State University, we founded an outreach program that brings neuroscience to local grade schools to demystify neuroscience and encourage children to think about pursuing science. I am proud to say that when I attended the annual retreat for the NGP at Ohio State in 2021, that I learned that the program was still active, and I couldn’t be more proud. At Drexel, I have continued to participate in outreach activities through the Medical Student For A Day Program and the Biomedical Graduate Students for Diversity Program. For my trainees and those within the Neurobiology and Anatomy Department at Drexel, I invite seminar speakers with diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, because representation matters.


Students currently have the opportunity to learn a wide variety of behavioral and neuroanatomical techniques in the lab:

  • Surgical: Stereotactic brain and spinal cord surgery, infusions of neurotoxins, retrograde and anterograde fluorescent labeling.
  • Behavioral: Sensory testing, use of the BBB and FLS locomotor rating scales, gait analysis, development of rehabilitative strategies for functional recovery.
  • Neuroanatomical: Immunocytochemistry, tract tracing, stereologic cell counting.
  • Molecular: quantitative-PCR, microarray analysis of microRNA, Western blot, ELISA, flow cytometry, FACS.
  • Electrophysiological: Whole-cell patch electrophysiology, intraspinal recording, EMG recording.

Active Funding

NIH NINDS #NS097880 (years 5-10)
Principal Investigator
Title: Regulation of neuropathic pain by exercise: effects on nociceptor plasticity and inflammation
The overall objective of this proposal is to determine the how exercise alters the role of myeloid cells (macrophages) that infiltrate the dorsal root ganglia after a spinal cord injury to affect nociceptor excitability and the development and persistence of neuropathic pain.

Co-Principal Investigator
Title: Validation of prenatal rabbit hypoxia ischemia as a model of cerebral palsy-induced pain
The overall objective of this proposal is to determine if the prenatal rabbit hypoxia ischemia which mimics motor dysfunctions of people living with cerebral palsy also emulates the chronic pain that develops over these individuals’ lifetimes. Rigorous experiments will determine face, criterion and construct validity.

Craig H. Neilsen Foundation #1001637
Principal Investigator
Title: Macrophage-targeted nanotherapeutic to reduce SCI Pain
The overall objective of this proposal is to provide necessary preliminary data and establish the feasibility of ED1-PgP-Rm as a therapeutic to treat and provide relief to individuals living with chronic SCI pain.

Lab News

On December 15, 2023, Jonathan Richards successfully defended his dissertation entitled, “Neuroimmune Contributions to Mouse Chronic Neuropathic Pain: Macrophages Play a Dual Role in Sensory Discriminative and Affective Components of Pain.” Congratulations, Dr. Richards!

Jason Wheeler, Neuroscience PhD student in the lab was awarded a fellowship on the NIH-funded T32 training program in spinal cord injury. The fellowship will provide funding for up to two years.

Daniel Freeman successfully defended his MS dissertation entitled, “The Plasticity of Intercellular Communication and The Polarization of Glial Cells in Pain Centers Following Spinal Cord Injury,” on Monday, June 5, 2023. Daniel will be heading to University of Maryland—Baltimore to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience next fall.

Jason Wheeler received his MS degree in Neuroscience from Drexel University College of Medicine on May 11, 2023.

Lab members, Daniel Freeman, BS/MS Biology student, and Neuroscience PhD students Jonathan Richards, BS, John Walker, MS and Jason Wheeler, BS presented posters of their ongoing work at the International Symposium for Neural Regeneration Meeting in April, 2023 at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington.

John Walker, MS, Neuroscience PhD candidate in the Detloff Lab, delivered a DataBlitz, “Nociception Impedes Grasping Recovery in the Spinal Cord Injured Rat,” at the Society for the Neural Control of Movement Conference 2022 in Dublin, Ireland, on August 28.

Jason Wheeler, Neuroscience master’s student in the Detloff Lab, presented a poster, “Intrathecal Injection of Polarized Macrophage Exosomes Reduces Mechanical and Thermal Pain Sensation in Spinal Cord Injured Rats,” at the World Congress for the International Association for the Study of Pain in Toronto, Ontario, on September 21, 2022.


“Rolipram-loaded PgP nanoparticle reduces secondary injury and enhances motor function recovery in a rat moderate contusion SCI model”
Jun Gao J, Khang MK, Liao Z, Webb K, Detloff MR, Lee JS
Nanomedicine. 2023 Sep;53:102702. doi: 10.1016/j.nano.2023.102702. PMID: 37574117

View all of Dr. Detloff's publications in PubMed.

“Enhanced nociceptive behavior and expansion of associated primary afferents in a rabbit model of cerebral palsy”
Reedich EJ, Genry LT, Singer MA, Cavarsan CF, Mena Avila E, Boudreau DM, Brennan MC, Garrett AM, Dowaliby L, Detloff MR, Quinlan KA
J Neurosci Res. 2022 Oct;100(10):1951-1966. doi: 10.1002/jnr.25108. Epub 2022 Jul 15. PMID: 35839339

“Modelling at-level allodynia after mid-thoracic contusion in the rat”
Blumenthal GH, Nandakumar B, Schnider AK, Detloff MR, Ricard J, Bethea JR, Moxon KA
Eur J Pain. 25(4): 801-816. April 2021

“Graph theoretical structural connectome analysis of the brain in patients with chronic spinal cord injury: preliminary investigation”
M, Detloff M, Sharan A, Harrop J, Newburg A, Krisa L, Mohamed FB
Spinal Cord Cases and Series. 7(1):60. 2021

“Plasticity in Cervical Motor Systems Following Injury and Rehabilitation”
Walker JR, Detloff MR
Biology (Basel). Sep 28;10(10):976. 2021

“Therapeutic targets and nanomaterial-based therapies for mitigation of secondary injury after spinal cord injury”
Gao J, Khang M, Liao Z, Detloff M, Lee JS
Nanomedicine. Sep;16(22):2013-2028. doi: 10.2217/nnm-2021-0113. Epub 2021 Aug 17. (2021)

“Exercise as a therapeutic intervention for neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury”
Houle JD, Detloff MR
in: Spinal Cord Injury Pain, Sang, CN and Hulsebosch, CE, eds. Academic Press, Elsevier Inc. 2021

“Exercise-Induced Changes to the Macrophage Response in the Dorsal Root Ganglia Prevent Neuropathic Pain after Spinal Cord Injury”
Chhaya SJ, Quiros-Molina D, Tamashiro-Orrego AD, Houlé JD, Detloff MR
J Neurotrauma. doi: 10.1089/neu.2018.5819. [Epub ahead of print] Oct 18, 2018

“Translational Challenges of Rat Models of Upper Extremity Dysfunction After Spinal Cord Injury”
Krisa L, Runyen M, Detloff MR
Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil.;24(3):195-205. Review, Summer 2018

“Delayed Exercise Is Ineffective at Reversing Aberrant Nociceptive Afferent Plasticity or Neuropathic Pain After Spinal Cord Injury in Rats”
Detloff MR, Quiros-Molina D, Javia AS, Daggubati L, Nehlsen AD, Naqvi A, Ninan V, Vannix KN, McMullen MK, Amin S, Ganzer PD, Houlé JD.
Neurorehabil Neural Repair.;30(7):685-700, Aug 2016

Contact Information

Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy
2900 W. Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129
Phone: 215.991.8986
Fax: 215.843.9082