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Megan Detloff

Megan Detloff, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department: Neurobiology & Anatomy


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

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 in 2009, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Role of primary afferent plasticity in recovery of function after 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.

Lab Members

Jonathan Richards
Meredith Singer, MS
John Walker, MS

Collaborators within Drexel:
John D. Houle
Seena Ajit
Kimberly Dougherty
Margaret Finley
Simon Giszter
John Bethea


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

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.

NIH NINDS #NS097880-S1
Title: Validation of Targeting Macrophage-Mediated Events in the DRG to Alleviate Chronic Spinal Cord Injury Pain
The overall objective of this proposal is to validate immune cells called macrophages as potential targets for pharmaceutical interventions that lead to chronic pain relief.

NIH NIMH #2R44MH119734
Title: HabiTrak: low-cost, wireless home cage health and activity monitoring
This work is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Sloan of Vulintus, LLC. The objective of this application is to develop a home cage health and activity monitoring system.


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

“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

“Acute exercise prevents the development of neuropathic pain and the sprouting of non-peptidergic (GDNF- and artemin-responsive) c-fibers after spinal cord injury"
Detloff, MR, Smith, EJ, Quiros Molina D, Ganzer PD, Houlé JD
Experimental Neurology; 255C:38-48, 2014

“Chronic at- and below-level pain following unilateral cervical spinal cord contusion in rats”
Detloff, MR, Wade, Jr. RE, Houlé, JD
Journal of Neurotrauma; 30(10):884-90. PMID 23216008, 2013

“Plasticity in ascending long propriospinal and descending supraspinal pathways in chronic cervical spinal cord injured rats”
Côté, M-P, Detloff, MR*, Wade, Jr. R.E., Houlé, JD (*indicates authors contributed equally)
Front Physiol; 3:330. PMID 22934078, 2012

“Acute and chronic tactile sensory testing after spinal cord injury in rats”
Detloff MR, Fisher LC, Deibert RJ, Basso DM
Journal of Visualized Experiments; (62), e3247, DOI: 10.3791/3247. PMID 2250841, 2012

“Exercise modulates microRNAs that affect the PTEN/mTOR pathway in rats after spinal cord injury”
Liu G, Detloff MR*, Miller KN, Santi L, Houlé, JD (*indicates authors contributed equally)
Experimental Neurology. Epub Ahead of Print. PMCID: PMC3268901, 2011

“Validity of acute and chronic tactile sensory testing after spinal cord injury in rats”
Detloff MR, Clark LM, Fisher LC, Hutchinson KJ, Kloos AD, Basso DM
Experimental Neurology; 225(2): 366-76. PMID 20643128, 2010

“Remote activation of microglia and pro-inflammatory cytokines predict the onset and severity of below-level neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury in rats”
Detloff MR, Fisher LC, Longbrake EE, McGaughy V, Popovich PG, Basso DM
Experimental Neurology; 212: 337 - 347. PMID 18511041, 2008
**Evaluated by Faculty of 1000.

“Stepwise motor and all-or-none sensory recovery is associated with non-linear sparing after incremental spinal cord injury in rats”
Kloos AD, Fisher LC, Detloff MR, Hassenzahl DL, Basso DM
Experimental Neurology; 191(2): 251-265. PMID 15649480, 2005

Contact Information

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