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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Steve Prescott, MD, PhD

Research Institute
Senior Scientist
Neurosciences & Mental Health

University of Toronto
Associate Professor
Department of Physiology and Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 309094
Fax: 416-813-7717
Email: steve.prescott@sickkids.ca

For more information, visit:

The Prescott Lab

Brief Biography

Dr. Prescott obtained his MD and PhD degrees from McGill University in 2005. His doctoral research focused on pain processing in the spinal cord. He then pursued post-doctoral training in computational neuroscience at the Salk Institute with Terry Sejnowski, focusing on nonlinear dynamics and neuronal excitability. He established his own lab at the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 and moved to SickKids in 2012. His lab synergistically combines computational and experimental techniques to study bioelectricity and neural coding.

Research Interests

  • Regulation of neuronal excitability
  • Synaptic inhibition and chloride regulation
  • Neural coding and information theory
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Spinal cord stimulation

Research Activities

The Prescott Lab studies how the nervous system processes somatosensory information and how disruption of that processing leads to chronic pain, especially neuropathic pain, which is pain caused by damage to the nervous system. His interdisciplinary team combines computer simulations and mathematical analysis with a broad range of experimental techniques including in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, calcium imaging and optogenetics to study information processing at the cellular and network levels. Their research extends from how primary sensory neurons respond to stimuli applied to the skin, to how that information is ultimately represented in the cortex. Particular emphasis is placed on deciphering how changes in neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission disrupt the encoding of sensory input such that normally innocuous stimulation is mistakenly perceived as painful. This information is, in turn, being used to develop therapeutic interventions by which to help reverse the pathological changes leading to neuropathic pain.

External Funding


  • Ontario Early Researcher Award
  • CIHR New Investigator Award
  • 53rd Mallinckrodt Scholar
  • Rita Allen Foundation Scholar in Pain


Visit PubMed for a full list of Dr. Prescott's publications

Lee KY, Ratté S, Prescott SA. Excitatory neurons are more disinhibited than inhibitory neurons by chloride dysreg¬ulation in the spinal dorsal horn. eLife 2019, 8 e49753.

Al Basha D, Prescott SA. Intermittent failure of spike propagation in primary afferent neurons during tactile stimulation. J. Neurosci 2019, 39: 9927-9939.

Mapplebeck JCS, Lorenzo L-E, Lee KY, Gauthier C, Muley MM, De Koninck Y, Prescott SA, Salter MW. Chloride dysregulation through downregulation of KCC2 mediates neuropathic pain in both sexes. Cell Rep. 2019, 28: 590-596.

Lankarany M, Al-Basha D, Ratté S, Prescott SA. Differentially synchronized spiking enables multiplexed neural coding. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2019, 116: 10097-10102.

Wang F, Bélanger E, Côté S, Desrosiers P, Prescott SA, Côté D, De Koninck Y. Sensory afferents use different coding strategies for heat and cold. Cell Rep. 2018, 23: 2001-2013.

Balachandar A, Prescott SA. Origin of heterogeneous spiking patterns from continuously distributed ion channel densities: A computational study in spinal dorsal horn neurons. J Physiol 2018, 596: 1681-1697.

Ratté S, Karnup S, Prescott SA. Nonlinear relationship between spike-dependent calcium influx and TRPC channel activation enables robust persistent spiking in neurons of the anterior cingulate cortex. J. Neurosci. 2018, 38: 1788-1801.

Lesperance LS, Lankarany M, Zhang TC, Estellar R, Ratté S, Prescott SA. Artifactual hyperpolarization during extra¬cel¬lular electrical stimulation: Proposed mechanism of high-rate neuromodulation disproved. Brain Simul. 2018, 11: 582-591.

Ratté S, Prescott SA. Afferent hyperexcitability in neuropathic pain and the inconvenient truth about its degeneracy. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 2016; 36: 31-37.

Ratté S, Zhu Y, Lee KY, Prescott SA. Criticality and degeneracy in injury-induced changes in primary afferent excitability and the implications for neuropathic pain. eLife 2014; 3: e02370.

Prescott SA, Ma Q, De Koninck Y. Normal and abnormal coding of painful sensations. Nat. Neurosci. 2014; 17: 183-191.

Ratté S, Hong SH, De Schutter E, Prescott SA. Impact of neuronal properties on network coding: roles of spike initiation dynamics and robust synchrony transfer. Neuron 2013; 78: 758-772.