European Pain School®

at the University of Siena

European Pain School®

at the University of Siena

EPS 2023 • Neuro-immune Interactions in Nociception, Pain and Itch

Siena, Italy • 10-17 June 2023

Neuro-immune Interactions in Nociception, Pain and Itch

Siena, Italy • 10-17 June 2023




The European Pain School (EPS), founded at the University of Siena (Italy) in 2002, is the first and still the premier school intended for students working on basic science and clinical topics related to acute and chronic pain. EPS has an interdisciplinary perspective and a distinct research orientation. Young scientists at the Ph.D. or postdoctoral levels (or equivalent) in all fields of pain science and pain medicine are encouraged to apply.

Mission and Overview

In the past the basic mechanisms of pain and the neural pathways involved were explored through research on animals and human subjects using well defined noxious stimuli and observing neurophysiological, behavioral and subjective sensory responses. This straightforward approach, however, is not sufficient to understand most of the real-life spontaneous and prolonged pain states that occur in human patients and animals. Rather, chronic pain involves complex and nonlinear functioning of neural and extraneural systems resulting in the maintenance of the pain process.

Long known are inflammatory mechanisms that can induce a prolonged pain state mediated by pain-producing substances of multiple origin including the immune system, with cytokines stimulating peripheral nociceptors or neurons of the central somatosensory system. Prolonged and enhanced activation of the central pain system may also be due to failure of inhibitory controls in the CNS, a likely mechanism in neuropathic pain. Control by both GABA and endogenous opioids may be affected, causing persistent pain and allodynia. Altered control may also be mediated by cytokines released from activated astrocytes and microglia in the CNS.

The mammalian pain system shows a clear sexual dimorphism that may depend on hormonal influences during peri- and postnatal nervous system development, among other causes. This sexual dichotomy has consequences for pain expression and for psychosocial and medical consequences of pain in males and females, including e.g. the process of pain chronification. Recognition of this dichotomy is resulting in developments in pain medicine that take gender into account.

The European Pain School believes in the advancement of interdisciplinary programs for the ultimate benefit of pain patients, disseminating this vision especially among junior investigators interested in basic and clinical research on pain.

2023 Edition: Neuro-immune Interactions in Nociception, Pain and Itch

The nociceptive and the immune system, both innate and adaptive, share functional similarities which evolved from the vital necessity to avoid physical threats and to detect damage- and pathogen-associated molecular patterns. These capacities rely on a multiplicity of receptor-equipped excitatory ion channels, including the TRPs, and of G protein-coupled and toll-like receptors. The mutual neuro-immune interaction is based on the release of immunomodulatory neuropeptides, on classical inflammatory mediators, products of oxidative stress, and on signaling via cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and even miRNA sequences. Located in closest proximity to peripheral nerve endings, cell types such as epithelial cells of the skin and inner surfaces, non-myelinating Schwann cells, and mast cells fulfil both nociceptive and immune functions, sensing noxious stimuli and sending chemical signals to the neurons. In the spinal dorsal horn, glial cells, in particular activated microglia, exert immune functions and take influence on the synaptic transmission of nociceptive input. Also the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, take influence on immune cells and exert (anti-)inflammatory reflexes. Neuro-immune interactions play an emerging role in many chronic diseases associated with pain or itch.


  • Macrophages and Schwann cells interacting with nociceptors in disease models
  • Neuro-immune interactions in models of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cross-talk between epithelia, immune cells and sensory neurons
  • Autoimmune aetiologies of chronic pain
  • The vagal antiinflammatory reflex and vagus nerve stimulation
  • Somatosensory and autonomic neuronal regulation of the immune response
  • Molecular architecture of somatic and visceral sensory neurons
  • Nociceptive Schwann cells in pain and itch
  • Resolution pharmacology for the control of pain and itch
  • Neuronal interactions with microbes in pain and host defense

Faculty 2023

Anna Maria Aloisi, Siena, Italy
Ofrit Bar-Bachar, Medoc, Ramat Yishai, Israel
Carlo V. Bellieni, Siena, Italy
Giancarlo Carli, Siena, Italy
Isaac Chiu, Boston, MA, USA
Patrik Ernfors, Stockholm, Sweden
Pierangelo Geppetti, Florence, Italy
Zsuzsanna Helyes, Pécs, Hungary
Ru-Rong Ji, Durham, NC, USA
Marzia Malcangio, London, United Kingdom
Davide Martelli, Bologna, Italy
Federico Montechiaro, Ugo Basile Srl, Gemonio, Italy
Romina Nassini, Florence, Italy
Peter Reeh, Erlangen, Germany
Sophie Ugolini, Marseille, France
John N. Wood, London, United Kingdom

Past cycles of the School

EPS 2022Pain, Inflammation and the Guts (11-18 June 2022)

EPS 2021Pain, Inflammation and the Guts (Online, 14-19 June 2021)

EPS 2020Pain, Inflammation and the Guts (rescheduled)

EPS 2019Headaches and Facial Pain (9-16 June 2019)

EPS 2018Pain: from Fetus to Old Age (10-17 June 2018)

EPS 2017CNS vs PNS Contributions to Persistent Pain (4-11 June 2017)

EPS 2016Pain: Neurons, Gender and Society (5-12 June 2016)

EPS 2015Plasticity in neural processing as a mechanism in chronic pain (7-14 June 2015)

EPS 2014Spontaneous versus Evoked Pain in Animals and Humans (8-15 June 2014)

EPS 2013Brain Modulation of Pain Experience (9-16 June 2013)

EPS 2012Evolution of Concepts on Pain (3-10 June 2012)

EPS 2011Pain: Bridging Molecules and Mind (12-19 June 2011)

EPS 2010Translating Pain Science into Pain Medicine (30 May - 6 June 2010)

EPS 2009Molecular Mechanisms of Pain Response (13-20 June 2009)

EPS 2008Hyperexcitable Neurons as Pain Generators (15-22 June 2008)

EPS 2007Pain Syndromes: Science and Medical Practice (17-24 June 2007)

EPS 2006Pain and the Central Nervous System (12-17 June 2005)

EPS 2005Chronic Pain a Disease: The Role of Genes (6-11 June 2005)

EPS 2003Chronic Pain a Disease: Novel Scientific Concepts (25-31 October 2003)


Important dates

Application deadline:
28 February 2023

Notification of selections:
7 March 2023

Deadline for attendance confirmation:
15 March 2023

Deadline for payment:
4 April 2023

Scientific Programme Committee

Anna Maria Aloisi
School Director
Siena, Italy

Giancarlo Carli
Siena, Italy

Pierangelo Geppetti
Florence, Italy

Marzia Malcangio
Scientific Programme Director
London, United Kingdom

Peter Reeh
Scientific Programme Director
Erlangen, Germany

With the support of

Boehringer Ingelheim Stiftung




Biomedicina e nutrizione