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Peggy Mason

InstitutionUniversity of Chicago
AddressChicago IL 60637
Phone+1 (773) 702-3144
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    Collapse Overview 
    Collapse overview
    After a 25-year focus on the cellular mechanisms of pain modulation (how does morphine work? and related questions), my laboratory’s energy is now focused on the biological basis of empathy and helping. Important questions include:

    Do rats help another in distress? Yes
    Who do they help? Strangers and familiars alike, as long as they know the type (strain) of rat
    What motivates rats to help another in distress? This is a work in progress but right now, it looks as though the motivation is a rodent version of empathy
    What are the brain circuits that support affective communication between two individuals? We are using a variety of methods to go into the brain and understand the circuits underlying pro-social behavior

    In addition to leading a research laboratory, I am committed to teaching neurobiology to anyone that will listen. As the first “neuroevangelist,” I tweet as @NeuroMOOC and blog at I am also thrilled to be able to teach neurobiology to the interested public through a massively open online course (MOOC) on Coursera ( My initial session of Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life was offered in 2014 and attracted more than 55,000 students; a second session will be starting up in early 2015. I welcome all to come join in the neuro-fun!

    Collapse Research 
    Collapse research activities and funding
    R25NS117360     (SCHWARTZ, NANCY B)Jul 1, 2020 - Jun 30, 2025
    University of Chicago Neuroscience Early Stage Scientist Training Program
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator

    R03NS113752     (MASON, PEGGY)Aug 15, 2019 - May 30, 2021
    Effect of congenital vs acquired somatosensory deafferentation on self-body schema
    Role: Principal Investigator

    R21DA022429     (MASON, PEGGY)Feb 1, 2008 - Jan 31, 2011
    Opioid Analgesia in Awake Mice
    Role: Principal Investigator

    R01NS043329     (MASON, PEGGY)Jun 1, 2003 - May 31, 2008
    Pain Modulation and Visceral Stimulation
    Role: Principal Investigator

    R01DA022978     (MASON, PEGGY)Aug 15, 1999 - Jun 30, 2013
    Physiology of Raphe Magnus Cells During Wake and Sleep
    Role: Principal Investigator

    R01MH060291     (MASON, PEGGY)Aug 15, 1999 - Jul 31, 2005
    Role: Principal Investigator

    R01NS033984     (MASON, PEGGY)Mar 1, 1996 - Feb 29, 2000
    Role: Principal Investigator

    R01DA007861     (MASON, PEGGY)May 1, 1994 - Apr 30, 1998
    Role: Principal Investigator

    T32GM007839     (MASON, PEGGY)Jul 1, 1985 - Jun 30, 2013
    Training in neural systems
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse selected publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
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    PMC Citations indicate the number of times the publication was cited by articles in PubMed Central, and the Altmetric score represents citations in news articles and social media. (Note that publications are often cited in additional ways that are not shown here.) Fields are based on how the National Library of Medicine (NLM) classifies the publication's journal and might not represent the specific topic of the publication. Translation tags are based on the publication type and the MeSH terms NLM assigns to the publication. Some publications (especially newer ones and publications not in PubMed) might not yet be assigned Field or Translation tags.) Click a Field or Translation tag to filter the publications.
    1. Mason P. Lessons from helping behavior in rats. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2021 06; 68:52-56. PMID: 33498010.
      Citations: 7     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    2. Havlik JL, Vieira Sugano YY, Jacobi MC, Kukreja RR, Jacobi JHC, Mason P. The bystander effect in rats. Sci Adv. 2020 Jul; 6(28). PMID: 32937520.
    3. Havlik JL, Vieira Sugano YY, Jacobi MC, Kukreja RR, Jacobi JHC, Mason P. The bystander effect in rats. Sci Adv. 2020 07; 6(28):eabb4205. PMID: 32923593; PMCID: PMC7455499.
      Citations: 7     Fields:    
    4. Simmons DH, Titley HK, Hansel C, Mason P. Behavioral Tests for Mouse Models of Autism: An Argument for the Inclusion of Cerebellum-Controlled Motor Behaviors. Neuroscience. 2021 05 10; 462:303-319. PMID: 32417339.
      Citations: 19     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimals
    5. Mason P, Shan H. A valence-free definition of sociality as any violation of inter-individual independence. Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Nov 15; 284(1866). PMID: 29118128; PMCID: PMC5698633.
      Citations: 3     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    6. Umana IC, Daniele CA, Miller BA, Abburi C, Gallagher K, Brown MA, Mason P, McGehee DS. Nicotinic modulation of descending pain control circuitry. Pain. 2017 Oct; 158(10):1938-1950. PMID: 28817416; PMCID: PMC5873975.
      Citations: 21     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    7. Ben-Ami Bartal I, Shan H, Molasky NM, Murray TM, Williams JZ, Decety J, Mason P. Anxiolytic Treatment Impairs Helping Behavior in Rats. Front Psychol. 2016; 7:850. PMID: 27375528; PMCID: PMC4896909.
      Citations: 44     
    8. Mason P. With a little help from our friends: how the brain processes empathy. Cerebrum. 2014 Sep-Oct; 2014:14. PMID: 26034521; PMCID: PMC4445583.
    9. Ben-Ami Bartal I, Rodgers DA, Bernardez Sarria MS, Decety J, Mason P. Pro-social behavior in rats is modulated by social experience. Elife. 2014; 3:e01385. PMID: 24424411; PMCID: PMC3884117.
      Citations: 83     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    10. Wang Q, Fong R, Mason P, Fox AP, Xie Z. Caffeine accelerates recovery from general anesthesia. J Neurophysiol. 2014 Mar; 111(6):1331-40. PMID: 24375022; PMCID: PMC3949308.
      Citations: 26     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    11. Hellman KM, Mason P. Opioids disrupt pro-nociceptive modulation mediated by raphe magnus. J Neurosci. 2012 Oct 03; 32(40):13668-78. PMID: 23035079; PMCID: PMC3752126.
      Citations: 16     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    12. Mason P. Two negatives make a positive: telencephalic-mediated analgesia. Exp Neurol. 2012 Aug; 236(2):336-8. PMID: 22580343.
      Citations:    Fields:    Translation:Animals
    13. Mason P. Medullary circuits for nociceptive modulation. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2012 Aug; 22(4):640-5. PMID: 22483535; PMCID: PMC4548289.
      Citations: 16     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    14. Ben-Ami Bartal I, Decety J, Mason P. Empathy and pro-social behavior in rats. Science. 2011 Dec 09; 334(6061):1427-30. PMID: 22158823; PMCID: PMC3760221.
      Citations: 221     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    15. Foo H, Mason P. Ingestion analgesia occurs when a bad taste turns good. Behav Neurosci. 2011 Dec; 125(6):956-61. PMID: 21928874; PMCID: PMC3226930.
      Citations: 4     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    16. Mason P. From descending pain modulation to obesity via the medullary raphe. Pain. 2011 Mar; 152(3 Suppl):S20-S24. PMID: 21087824; PMCID: PMC3045632.
      Citations: 10     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    17. Foo H, Crabtree K, Mason P. The modulatory effects of rostral ventromedial medulla on air-puff evoked microarousals in rats. Behav Brain Res. 2010 Dec 20; 215(1):156-9. PMID: 20621127; PMCID: PMC2931329.
      Citations: 2     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    18. Mason P, Bartal BA. How the social brain experiences empathy: Summary of a gathering. Soc Neurosci. 2010; 5(2):252-6. PMID: 20131156.
      Citations: 1     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimals
    19. Foo H, Mason P. Analgesia accompanying food consumption requires ingestion of hedonic foods. J Neurosci. 2009 Oct 14; 29(41):13053-62. PMID: 19828818; PMCID: PMC2785220.
      Citations: 27     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    20. Hellman KM, Mendelson SJ, Mendez-Duarte MA, Russell JL, Mason P. Opioid microinjection into raphe magnus modulates cardiorespiratory function in mice and rats. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2009 Nov; 297(5):R1400-8. PMID: 19710394; PMCID: PMC2777768.
      Citations: 6     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    21. Mason P, Foo H. Food consumption inhibits pain-related behaviors. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul; 1170:399-402. PMID: 19686166.
      Citations: 2     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    22. Foo H, Crabtree K, Thrasher A, Mason P. Eating is a protected behavior even in the face of persistent pain in male rats. Physiol Behav. 2009 Jun 22; 97(3-4):426-9. PMID: 19321150; PMCID: PMC2696032.
      Citations: 8     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    23. Frazier CR, Mason P, Zhuang X, Beeler JA. Sucrose exposure in early life alters adult motivation and weight gain. PLoS One. 2008 Sep 17; 3(9):e3221. PMID: 18797507; PMCID: PMC2529404.
      Citations: 21     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    24. Hellman KM, Brink TS, Mason P. Activity of murine raphe magnus cells predicts tachypnea and on-going nociceptive responsiveness. J Neurophysiol. 2007 Dec; 98(6):3121-33. PMID: 17913977; PMCID: PMC3759357.
      Citations: 7     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    25. Mason P, Gao K, Genzen JR. Serotonergic raphe magnus cell discharge reflects ongoing autonomic and respiratory activities. J Neurophysiol. 2007 Oct; 98(4):1919-27. PMID: 17715191; PMCID: PMC3759355.
      Citations: 15     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    26. Mason P. Placing pain on the sensory map: classic papers by Ed Perl and colleagues. J Neurophysiol. 2007 Mar; 97(3):1871-3. PMID: 17353552.
      Citations: 1     Fields:    Translation:HumansCells
    27. Brink TS, Hellman KM, Lambert AM, Mason P. Raphe magnus neurons help protect reactions to visceral pain from interruption by cutaneous pain. J Neurophysiol. 2006 Dec; 96(6):3423-32. PMID: 16928792.
      Citations: 15     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    28. Nason MW, Mason P. Medullary raphe neurons facilitate brown adipose tissue activation. J Neurosci. 2006 Jan 25; 26(4):1190-8. PMID: 16436606; PMCID: PMC6674569.
      Citations: 32     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    29. Mason P. Chapter 15 Descending pain modulation as a component of homeostasis. Handb Clin Neurol. 2006; 81:211-8. PMID: 18808837.
      Citations: 4     Fields:    
    30. Mason P. Ventromedial medulla: pain modulation and beyond. J Comp Neurol. 2005 Dec 05; 493(1):2-8. PMID: 16255004.
      Citations: 34     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    31. Foo H, Mason P. Sensory suppression during feeding. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Nov 15; 102(46):16865-9. PMID: 16275919; PMCID: PMC1283815.
      Citations: 28     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    32. Mason P. Deconstructing endogenous pain modulations. J Neurophysiol. 2005 Sep; 94(3):1659-63. PMID: 16105951.
      Citations: 46     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    33. Baez MA, Brink TS, Mason P. Roles for pain modulatory cells during micturition and continence. J Neurosci. 2005 Jan 12; 25(2):384-94. PMID: 15647481; PMCID: PMC6725493.
      Citations: 16     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    34. Foo H, Mason P. Movement-related discharge of ventromedial medullary neurons. J Neurophysiol. 2005 Feb; 93(2):873-83. PMID: 15385592.
      Citations: 6     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    35. Brink TS, Mason P. Role for raphe magnus neuronal responses in the behavioral reactions to colorectal distension. J Neurophysiol. 2004 Oct; 92(4):2302-11. PMID: 15175367.
      Citations: 8     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    36. Nason MW, Mason P. Modulation of sympathetic and somatomotor function by the ventromedial medulla. J Neurophysiol. 2004 Jul; 92(1):510-22. PMID: 14973310.
      Citations: 26     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    37. Foo H, Mason P. Brainstem modulation of pain during sleep and waking. Sleep Med Rev. 2003 Apr; 7(2):145-54. PMID: 12628215.
      Citations: 36     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    38. Foo H, Mason P. Discharge of raphe magnus ON and OFF cells is predictive of the motor facilitation evoked by repeated laser stimulation. J Neurosci. 2003 Mar 01; 23(5):1933-40. PMID: 12629198; PMCID: PMC6741988.
      Citations: 9     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    39. Brink TS, Mason P. Raphe magnus neurons respond to noxious colorectal distension. J Neurophysiol. 2003 May; 89(5):2506-15. PMID: 12612047.
      Citations: 10     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    40. Gao K, Mason P, Gao K, Mason P. Physiological and anatomic evidence for functional subclasses of serotonergic raphe magnus cells. J Comp Neurol. 2001 Oct 29; 439(4):426-39. PMID: 11596064.
      Citations: 9     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    41. Gao K, Mason P. The discharge of a subset of serotonergic raphe magnus cells is influenced by baroreceptor input. Brain Res. 2001 May 11; 900(2):306-13. PMID: 11334811.
      Citations: 4     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    42. Mason P, Escobedo I, Burgin C, Bergan J, Lee JH, Last EJ, Holub AL, Mason P, Escobedo I, Burgin C, Bergan J, Lee JH, Last EJ, Holub AL. Nociceptive responsiveness during slow-wave sleep and waking in the rat. Sleep. 2001 Feb 01; 24(1):32-8. PMID: 11204051.
      Citations: 8     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    43. Mason P, Mason P. Contributions of the medullary raphe and ventromedial reticular region to pain modulation and other homeostatic functions. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2001; 24:737-77. PMID: 11520917.
      Citations: 80     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    44. Gao K, Mason P. Serotonergic Raphe magnus cells that respond to noxious tail heat are not ON or OFF cells. J Neurophysiol. 2000 Oct; 84(4):1719-25. PMID: 11024064.
      Citations: 27     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    45. Mason P. Central mechanisms of pain modulation. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 1999 Aug; 9(4):436-41. PMID: 10448161.
      Citations: 30     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    46. Leung CG, Mason P. Physiological properties of raphe magnus neurons during sleep and waking. J Neurophysiol. 1999 Feb; 81(2):584-95. PMID: 10036262.
      Citations: 31     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    47. Leung CG, Mason P. Physiological survey of medullary raphe and magnocellular reticular neurons in the anesthetized rat. J Neurophysiol. 1998 Oct; 80(4):1630-46. PMID: 9772227.
      Citations: 18     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    48. Gao K, Chen DO, Genzen JR, Mason P. Activation of serotonergic neurons in the raphe magnus is not necessary for morphine analgesia. J Neurosci. 1998 Mar 01; 18(5):1860-8. PMID: 9465010; PMCID: PMC6792633.
      Citations: 17     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    49. Gao K, Mason P. Somatodendritic and axonal anatomy of intracellularly labeled serotonergic neurons in the rat medulla. J Comp Neurol. 1997 Dec 15; 389(2):309-28. PMID: 9416924.
      Citations: 13     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    50. Kusmirek J, Owens CA, Mason P. Lumbar but not cervical intrathecal DAMGO suppresses extrasegmental nociception in awake rats. Brain Res. 1997 Sep 05; 767(2):375-9. PMID: 9367272.
      Citations:    Fields:    Translation:Animals
    51. Gao K, Kim YH, Mason P. SEROTONERGIC pontomedullary neurons are not activated by antinociceptive stimulation in the periaqueductal gray. J Neurosci. 1997 May 01; 17(9):3285-92. PMID: 9096161; PMCID: PMC6573629.
      Citations: 10     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    52. Mason P. Physiological identification of pontomedullary serotonergic neurons in the rat. J Neurophysiol. 1997 Mar; 77(3):1087-98. PMID: 9084584.
      Citations: 50     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    53. Leung CG, Mason P. Spectral analysis of arterial blood pressure and raphe magnus neuronal activity in anesthetized rats. Am J Physiol. 1996 Aug; 271(2 Pt 2):R483-9. PMID: 8770152.
      Citations: 4     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    54. Mason P, Owens CA, Hammond DL. Antagonism of the antinocifensive action of halothane by intrathecal administration of GABAA receptor antagonists. Anesthesiology. 1996 May; 84(5):1205-14. PMID: 8624015.
      Citations: 1     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    55. Mason P, Leung CG. Physiological functions of pontomedullary raphe and medial reticular neurons. Prog Brain Res. 1996; 107:269-82. PMID: 8782525.
      Citations: 4     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    56. Leung CG, Mason P. Effects of isoflurane concentration on the activity of pontomedullary raphe and medial reticular neurons in the rat. Brain Res. 1995 Nov 13; 699(1):71-82. PMID: 8616615.
      Citations: 9     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    57. Mason P. Lipopolysaccharide induces fever and decreases tail flick latency in awake rats. Neurosci Lett. 1993 May 14; 154(1-2):134-6. PMID: 8361627.
      Citations: 8     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
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