Carl  Saab,  PhD

Carl Saab, PhD


Lerner Research Institute, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44195


I am the director of the Pain Science Technology and Research (STAR) Lab, whose mission is to foster collaboration between clinicians and researchers to develop, test and validate novel technologies and methods to diagnose and treat chronic pain. The lab’s vision encompasses hypothesis- and data-driven scientific discovery leading to translational research.

Our research program is guided by the scientific premise that sensory and emotional states are governed by neural circuits. Our main goal is to elucidate and map these circuits with unprecedented cellular specificity and temporal resolution, using multidisciplinary research tools such as optogenetics, self-report behavioral paradigms, and high-density (>200 units) neural recordings in vivo across the spine-brain continuum. Basic science discoveries are then translated to biomedical applications in collaboration with healthcare partners, using non-invasive brain imaging and machine learning.

Lay Summary

Chronic (long-term) pain is one of the most widespread, costly and disabling health conditions in the United States. Musculoskeletal pain, the most common type of chronic pain, is especially devastating; healthcare costs for chronic low back pain are estimated at $100 billion a year. Our research is based on new scientific findings showing that pain is controlled by the brain. Therefore, our main goal is to define the brain networks that govern pain, through non-invasive brain imaging and analysis of patient data. This will allow for better diagnosis of patients with pain, and will enable healthcare professionals to treat patients earlier to prevent long-term pain, disability and opioid use.

View publications for Carl Saab, Ph.D.

  1. Chang, Y.W., Tan A., Saab C.Y., Waxman S.G. Unilateral focal burn injury is followed by long-lasting bilateral allodynia and neuronal hyperexcitability in spinal cord dorsal horn. J Pain 11:119-30, 2010 (COVER).
  2. LeBlanc B.W., Iwata M., Mallon A.P., Rupasinghe C.N., Goebel D.J., Marshall J., Spaller M.R., Saab C.Y. A Cyclic Peptide Targeted against PSD-95 blocks central sensitization and attenuates thermal hyperalgesia. Neurosci167:490-500, 2010.
  3. LeBlanc B.W., Zerah M.L., Kadasi L.M., Noori, C., Saab C.Y. Minocycline injection in the ventral posterolateral thalamus reverses microglial reactivity and thermal hyperalgesia secondary to sciatic neuropathy. Neurosci Lett 498:138-42, 2011.
  4. Iwata M., LeBlanc B.W., Kadasi L.M., Zerah M.L., Cosgrove R.G. and Saab C.Y. High-frequency stimulation in the ventral posterolateral thalamus reverses electrophysiological changes and hyperalgesia in a rat model of neuropathic pain. Pain 152:2505-13, 2011.
  5. Shields S.D., Cheng X., Gasser A., Saab C.Y., Iwata M., Tyrell L., Eastman E., Zwinger P.J., Black J.A., Dib-Hajj S.D. and Waxman S.G. A channelopathy contributes to cerebellar dysfunction in a model of multiple sclerosis. Annals Neurol 71:186-94, 2012.
  6. Saab C.Y. Visualizing the complex dynamics of chronic pain. J Neuroimm Pharm (special issue) 8:510-7, 2013.
  7. Saab C.Y. Pain-related changes in the brain: diagnostic and therapeutic potentials. TINS 35:629-37, 2012.
  8. Leblanc B.W., Lii T.R., Silverman A.E., Alleyne R.T., Saab C.Y. Cortical Theta is Increased while Thalamocortical Coherence is Decreased in Rat Models of Acute and Chronic Pain. Pain, 155:773-82, 2014 (COVER).
  9. Leblanc B.W., Lii T., Huang J.J., Chao Y.C., Bowary P., Cross B., Lee M., Vera-Portocarrero L., Saab C.Y. T-type Calcium Channel Blocker Z944 Restores Cortical Synchrony and Thalamocortical Connectivity in a Rat Model of Neuropathic Pain. Pain, 157:255-63, 2016.
  10. 10.  LeBlanc B.W., Bowary P.M., Chao Y.C., Lii T.R., Saab C.Y. Electroencephalogram signatures of pain and analgesia in rats. Pain 157:2330-40, 2016.
  11. Levitt J., Choo H.J., Smith K.A., LeBlanc B.W., Saab C.Y. Electroencephalographic Frontal Synchrony and Caudal Asynchrony during Painful Hand Immersion in Cold Water. Brain Res Bull 30:75-80, 2016.
  12. Saab C.Y., Barrett L.F. Thalamic bursts and the epic pain model. Front Comp Neurosci 10:147, 2017.
  13. Flakoll B., Ali A.B., Saab C.Y. Twitching in veterinary procedures: How does this technique subdue horses? J Vet Beh [in press]. Early Career Scientist Award Prize.
  14. 14.  LeBlanc B.W., Cross B., Smith K.A., Roach C., Xia J., Chao Y.C., Levitt J., Koyama S., Moore C., Saab C.Y. Thalamic bursts down-regulate cortical theta  and nociceptive behavior. Sci Rep7:2482, 2017.
  15. Saab C.Y.,Abdul Baki S.Spatiotemporal Coding in the Brain: Promise of Objective Orofacial Pain Diagnosis. J Leb Dent Assoc52(1):42, 2017 (ISSN 1810-9632).
  16. Levitt J, Nitenson A, Koyama S, Heijmans L, Curry J, Ross JT, Kamerling S, Saab CY. Automated Detection of Electroencephalography Artifacts in Human, Rodent and Canine Subjects using Machine Learning. J Neurosci Methods S0165-0270(18)30193-6, 2018.
  17. Koyama S, Xia J, Leblanc BW, Gu JW, Saab CY. Sub-paresthesia spinal cord stimulation reverses thermal hyperalgesia and modulates low frequency EEG in a rat model of neuropathic pain. Sci Rep 8;8(1):7181, 2018.
  18. Levitt J, Saab CY. What does a pain ‘biomarker’ mean and can a machine be taught to measure pain? Neurosci Let29;702:40-43, 2019.
  19. Davis KD, Aghaeepour N, Ahn AH, Angst MS, Borsook D, Brenton A, Burczynski ME, Crean C, Edwards R, Gaudilliere B, Hergenroeder GW, Iadarola MJ, Iyengar S, Jiang Y, Kong JT, Mackey S, Saab CY, Sang CN, Scholz J, Segerdahl M, Tracey I, Veasley C, Wang J, Wager TD, Wasan AD, Pelleymounter MA. Discovery and validation of biomarkers to aid the development of safe and effective pain therapeutics: challenges and opportunities. Nat Rev Neurol. 2020 Jul;16(7):381-400. doi: 10.1038/s41582-020-0362-2. Epub 2020 Jun 15. PMID: 32541893 Free PMC article.
  20. Black CJ, Allawala AB, Bloye K, Vanent KN, Edhi MM, Saab CY, Borton DA. Automated and rapid self-report of nociception in transgenic mice. Sci Rep. 2020 Aug 6;10(1):13215. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-70028-8. PMID: 32764714 Free PMC article.
  21. Edhi MM, Heijmans L, Vanent KN, Bloye K, Baanante A, Jeong KS, Leung J, Zhu C, Esteller R, Saab CY. Time-dynamic pulse modulation of spinal cord stimulation reduces mechanical hypersensitivity and spontaneous pain in rats. Sci Rep. 2020 Nov 23;10(1):20358. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-77212-w.
  22. Levitt J, Edhi MM, Thorpe RV, Leung JW, Michishita M, Koyama S, Yoshikawa S, Scarfo KA, Carayannopoulos AG, Gu W, Srivastava KH, Clark BA, Esteller R, Borton DA, Jones SR, Saab CY. Pain phenotypes classified by machine learning using electroencephalography features. Neuroimage. 2020 Dec;223:117256. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117256. Epub 2020 Aug 29. PMID: 32871260 Free article.

US Patent Patent Title Issue Date First-Named Inventor
9,486,632 Pain management 11/8/2016 Carl Y. Saab, PhD
8,977,362 Peripheral pain management 3/10/2015 Carl Y. Saab, PhD

12/10/2020 |  

New Method for Diagnosing Pain Combines EEG and Artificial Intelligence

Dr. Saab and his team are exploring a new, more objective way to diagnose pain that is rapid, less expensive and provides more accurate results.