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Alexandre DaSilva - August 2015

Alexandre DaSilva, D.D.S., D.Med.Sc., is an assistant professor at the Biologic & Materials Sciences Department at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. There, he is also the director of H.O.P.E. (Headache & Orofacial Pain Effort), which is a multidisciplinary collaborative effort to investigate the brain as a research and therapeutic target for chronic trigeminal pain disorders.

He received his Doctorate in Medical Science degree in oral biology with clinical training in TMD and orofacial pain at Harvard University. His thesis subject was on somatotopic (fMRI) activation in the human trigeminal pain pathway. This training was followed by a post-doctoral fellowship on migraine neuroimaging at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, to investigate subcortical and cortical neuroplasticity in migraine patients. He also worked in the Psychiatric Department at Harvard University/McLean Hospital, and was an assistant clinical investigator at The Forsyth Institute in Boston. During his training, he collaborated with his colleagues on innovative neuroimaging and non-invasive brain stimulation projects for chronic TMD, trigeminal neuropathic pain and migraine.

Today, he and his team, with collaborators from the University of Michigan and other academic institutions, use state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques (fMRI, PET, MRS, DTI, and MRI-based morphometry) to study neuroplasticity, and to investigate novel therapeutic approaches and mechanisms in headache and orofacial pain disorders. His laboratory has mentored research and resident fellows with different backgrounds, from bioengineering, medical radiology, anatomy and pain (undergraduates, M.D., D.D.S., M.Sc., Ph.D.). Under his mentorship, dental residents currently lead projects and develop new technologies that have transformative relevance in the pain clinic. As one orthodontic resident’s project targets directly the brains of patients with chronic TMD to provide pain relief, another endodontic resident’s study measures in real-time the brain activity of a patient under dental pain in a clinical setting.

Here, DaSilva is navigating in 3D through the brain of a patient during a migraine attack. This is used for his lab’s research and educational efforts related to pain and migraine. Citation: DaSilva AF, Nascimento TD, Love T, DosSantos MF, Martikainen IK, Cummiford CM, DeBoer M, Lucas SR, Bender MA, Koeppe RA, Hall T, Petty S, Maslowski E, Smith YR, Zubieta JK. 2014.3D-neuronavigation in vivo through a patient's brain during a spontaneous migraine headache. J Vis Exp. 2(88). doi: 10.3791/50682.

DaSilva has been an AADR member since 2005 and was recently voted treasurer of the AADR Michigan Section. As an expert in the field, he will present at the upcoming 8th AADR Fall Focused Symposium: Advances in the Biology and Management of Chronic Pain

What motivated you to join AADR?
Anyone who has an interest in research should be involved in AADR. I joined AADR initially for the networking and the access to research. I knew that it was a good place for me to see what dental research my peers are conducting.

What is one of the most valuable benefits of your AADR membership? 
I think the most valuable benefit of my membership has been having access to the research publications that AADR provides in the JDR. Also, being able to attend the meetings is valuable because I can meet with my peers and learn more about their research.

What would you say to other members to encourage them to be more active in AADR?
I think AADR is a great venue to find colleagues who are linked to research. AADR is a large and productive community and AADR provides opportunities for members to be involved. I’m speaking at the upcoming Fall Focused Symposium. By speaking at the meetings or presenting a poster, it gives you an opportunity to promote your research. If you want your research to be seen, you need to become more involved in AADR, attend meetings and look for opportunities to present your work and learn.

How has being active in the IADR/AADR Neuroscience Scientific Group helped you advance your research?
Being involved in the Neuroscience Scientific Group definitely helps me reach research collaborators, and my clinical and research colleagues. It also helps me connect with students, including potential post-docs and research fellows. Through my involvement in the Neuroscience Scientific Group, I have access to a larger network of researchers that I otherwise wouldn’t know.

What is the value your AADR membership has had in your career growth?
It is crucial to be connected to my fellow AADR member colleagues. Not only by the news that we receive from AADR but through networking with my colleagues at the meetings. When I attend the meetings I’m able to see how the field is developing and growing. My laboratory has people from different fields, which includes dentists in different specialties but also neurologists, bioengineers and people in 3D technology. It is important that we go beyond what one particular discipline can contribute to the field by widening our collaboration. Through AADR, I’m able to meet and network with new collaborators and this has been positive for my career growth.

What advice would you offer to students to encourage them to pursue research?
I encourage students to get involved in research and AADR. Even if you are thinking about clinical work, being involved in research helps you think differently to find solutions to better provide treatment to our patients. 

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