The Zeilhofer lab investigates sensory processing in the spinal dorsal horn - the primary termination area of sensory nerve fibers arriving in the central nervous system from the body trunk and the extremities. At this site, the incoming sensory signals are integrated with signals from a local network of excitatory and inhibitory interneurons and fibers descending from supraspinal CNS areas. A large body of evidence indicates that maladaptive plasticity at this site underlies chronic pain states. Understanding of the principles of normal and pathological neural processing in the dorsal horn should hence lead one day to new and better therapies for chronic pain conditions that affect almost 20% of our general population. More recently a critical role of such networks has become apparent for acute and chronic itch. Our research focuses around two major themes.