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Sean Mackey

Physician and scientist dedicated to creating a future where pain treatment is precisely tailored to each patient, using advanced neurosciences, patient outcomes, biomarkers, informatics and compassion.

I'm Redlich Professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford School of Medicine. I'm also Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine, Director of the Systems Neuroscience and Pain Lab, and Program Director for our National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 Postdoctoral Research Training Program.  


We're working towards a future where healthcare professionals use advanced tools and diverse data, including brain scans, blood tests, wearables, and patient feedback, to tailor chronic pain treatments. In this future, technology development is driven and evolves continually by both patient and clinician experiences, ensuring meaningful impact in healthcare. Our research, deeply tied to patient experiences, leverages their data to benefit many. We collaborate closely with patient advisors and advocacy groups, ensuring our focus remains patient-centered and data privacy is upheld. In clinics, patients actively engage with clinicians, using their health data to make informed, personalized treatment decisions.

Learn more about our research
 Two diagrams of the human brain showcasing the neuroanatomy of pain processing and modulation pathways.
Featured Publication

Brain circuits for pain and its treatment

Science Translational Medicine

We delve into the complex nature of pain, highlighting its physical, emotional, and cognitive dimensions. We explore how specific neuron types in the brain contribute to pain perception and its aversive quality. Our paper also reviews various treatments, including drugs, neurofeedback, and cognitive-behavioral therapies, that target these neural circuits to relieve chronic pain. Our work emphasizes the complexity of pain processing in the brain and the need for targeted approaches to effectively manage chronic pain conditions.

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Featured Publication

Impact of Social Isolation on Pain Interference

Our longitudinal study conducted in real-world patients with chronic pain has shed light on the significant impact of social isolation on individuals with persistent pain. Our study, found that social isolation notably predicts an increase in pain interference, affecting individuals' pain management and quality of life. However, this interference doesn't reciprocate to increase social isolation. Our research highlights the crucial role of social factors in pain management, emphasizing the need for interventions that enhance social connections to mitigate pain impact. Our study contributes new insights into the complex relationship between social isolation, pain interference, and physical functioning, offering a fresh perspective in chronic pain treatment strategies.

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Featured Publication

Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain in the United States

As an author of this CDC report, I'm struck by its significance. We revealed that approximately 50 million U.S. adults suffer from chronic pain, while around 20 million experience high-impact chronic pain that severely limits their work and life activities. The findings are crucial for guiding federal health strategies and public education on pain management. It underscores the need for better integrated pain management approaches and highlights the link between chronic pain and socioeconomic factors. Our report not only sheds light on the magnitude of chronic pain in America but also underscores its impact on individuals' lives and society.

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Featured Publication

Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions in Patients with Migraine

We investigated the complexities of chronic migraine, particularly focusing on its coexistence with other chronic pain conditions. Our investigation revealed that individuals suffering from chronic migraines often endure additional pain disorders, exacerbating their overall health challenges. Our findings underscore the necessity for healthcare professionals to adopt a more nuanced approach when treating chronic migraine patients, especially those grappling with multiple pain issues. This research offers vital insights into the intertwined nature of chronic pain conditions, paving the way for more effective and personalized treatments.

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