Michael D. Burton

Eugene McDermott Professor
Assistant Professor
Department of Neuroscience
Center for Vital Longevity - Affiliate

Research Interests: Integrative Neuroscience. How the immune and nervous systems communicate to elicit various behaviors: An emphasis on pain, depression, and metabolism

Tags: Molecular Biology Immunology Cognition and Neuroscience Biochemistry Translation studies Depression nutrition Neuroscience Neuroimmunology Integrative Biology Cellular Metabolism Whole-body Metabolism Anxiety Clinical Samples Molecular Neuroscience Animal Behavior Animal Studies Sickness Behavior Neuroscience-Faculty CAPS-Faculty

Professional Preparation

Postdoc - Pain Neurobiology
UT Dallas - 2017
Postdoc - Hypothalamic Research
UT Southwestern Medical Center - 2015
PhD - Immunophysiology and Behavior
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - 2012
B.S. - Animal Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - 2006

Research Areas

Research Interests
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience. How peripheral stimuli (painful stimuli, diet, alcohol, & immune activation) communicate to the CNS to elicit complex behaviors: An emphasis on pain, depression, and metabolism. Using behavioral assays, molecular genetics, in-vivo imaging, biochemistry, and pharmacology. 
Research Statement
Dr. Burton is a new Assistant Professor whose research focuses on how the immune system modulates peripheral sensory neurons to regulate pain and energy homeostasis. The lab is interested in aging, nutrition, alcohol consumption, and immune activation. Dr. Burton received his BS and PhD in Animal Sciences with a focus on Immunophysiology and Behavior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He then moved to Dallas, TX to begin his postdoctoral fellowship work in the Department of Hypothalamic Research at UT Southwestern Medical Center. There Dr. Burton gained skills in molecular genetics, neuroendocrinology, and neuroanatomy; in studies that focused on how peripheral ganglia recognized dietary components. He then moved to the UT-Dallas campus to focus on how immune cells influence the transition to chronic pain, bioinformatics, and in-vivo 2-photon imaging. It was the fusion of these 2 experiences that formed the basis of a  NIH-(K)Transition-to-Faculty Award. He believes in order to traverse the gap between basic research and clinical application to the patient, we must realize and appreciate pre-clinical research. He is excited at the notion to play a role in this process, and help humankind through his research in pain development, depression, and metabolic disorders that we deal with every day.


Age and sex drive differential behavioral and neuroimmune phenotypes during postoperative pain 2023 - Journal Article
Regulatory T-cells and IL-5 mediate pain outcomes in a preclinical model of chronic muscle pain 2023 - Journal Article
Neuroimmunology and Behavior: Big Data Management Plan 2023 - Other
Peroxynitrite contributes to behavioral responses, increased trigeminal excitability, and changes in mitochondrial function in a preclinical model of migraine 2023 - Journal Article
Sex-specific differences in alcohol-induced pain sensitization 2023 - Journal Article
High-fat diet causes mechanical allodynia in the absence of injury or diabetic pathology 2022 - Journal Article
Preoperative Polypharmacy in Geriatric Patients Is Associated with Increased 90-Day All-Cause Hospital Readmission After Surgery for Adult Spinal Deformity Patients 2022 - Journal Article
Regulatory T-cells and IL-5 mediate pain outcomes in a preclinical model chronic muscle pain. 2022 - Journal Article


SFNova/Rising Star - Society for Neuroscience [2022]
Fellow - African Science Institute [2021]
Certificate of Congressional Recognition - U.S. House of Representatives [2021]
ACT Fellow - American Society for Cell Biology [2020]
Rita Allen Pain Scientist Award - Rita Allen Foundation [2019]
Mitchell Max Award - NIH Pain Consortium [2019]
Keystone Symposia Fellow - Keystone Symposia [2018]
Future Leaders Award - The Endocrine Society [2017]
Future Leader Award - American Pain Society [2017]


Eugene McDermott Professor
UT Dallas [2022–Present]
Endowed Professor Position
Assistant Professor
UT Dallas [2017–Present]
Neuroscience Department
Founding Member
Center for Advanced Pain Studies (CAPS) [2019–Present]
Center for Vital Longevity [2020–Present]


Neuroimmune communication – how peripheral neurons communicate with immune cells to mediate pain states and co-morbidities. Cell-specific TLR4 signaling. Chronic Muscle Pain/Fibromyalgia (clinical outcomes).
Translational project utilizing novel genetic rodent models with a clinical aspect utilizing human patients and samples. 
Mechanisms of aging – how aging and sex influence the immune system, metabolism, and behavioral plasticity.
Translational project utilizing rodent models with a clinical aspect utilizing human tissue. 
The role of cannabinoids in mediating affective behavior and analgesia – an opioid alternative to chronic pain.
Translational project using novel genetic animal models
The role of (neuro)immune biomarkers indicative of pain and delirium, during convalescence – direct clinical implications of this conversation.
Clinical Project in collaboration with UTSW and the University of Cincinnati


An introduction to the lab!

Additional Information

 Dr. Burton serves as the Deputy Editor of Neurobiology of Pain and sits on the editorial boards of: Journal of Neuroinflammation, European Journal of Neuroscience, Frontiers in Pain Research, Behavioral Neuroscience, and he is a member of the advisory boards of the Mentoring Institute for Neuroscience Diversity Scholars (MINDS), The Endocrine Society Basic Science Group, and NIH Center for Scientific Review Council for Fellowships 

News Articles

Study finds an enriched HFD lowers the threshold to Pain States
Study finds an enriched HFD lowers the threshold to Pain States A new study in mice from researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas suggests that a short-term exposure to a high-fat diet may be linked to pain sensations even in the absence of a prior injury or a preexisting condition like obesity or diabetes.

The study, published Sept. 1 in the journal Scientific Reports, compared the effects of eight weeks of different diets on two cohorts of mice. One group received normal chow, while the other was fed a high-fat diet in a way that did not precipitate the development of obesity or high blood sugar, both of which are conditions that can result in diabetic neuropathy and other types of pain.

The researchers found that the high-fat diet induced hyperalgesic priming — a neurological change that represents the transition from acute to chronic pain — and allodynia, which is pain resulting from stimuli that do not normally provoke pain.

Dr. Burton is co-Director of Research Enrichment Program to stimulate URM participation
The University of Texas at Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) has received a two-year, $900,000 grant from Communities Foundation of Texas’ W.W. Caruth, Jr. Fund to expand neuroscience research opportunities for underrepresented undergraduates from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Enhancing Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Experiences (ENSURE) program will cover tuition, housing and stipends for at least 10 exceptional sophomores and juniors who will conduct intensive neuroscience research over two years.

BBS Professor, Biomedical Engineering Doctoral Student Earn Awards
BBS Professor, Biomedical Engineering Doctoral Student Earn Awards Dr. Michael Burton, an assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, has received the 2019 Mitchell Max Award for Research Excellence from the National Institutes of Health Pain Consortium.

Burton was selected for his presentation on delayed-onset neuropathic pain in older men. His research suggests that immune system hyperactivity at an advanced age can trigger hyperexcitability in neurons that can produce chronic pain long after an injury.
Q&A with 2019 Mitchell Max Award Recipient
Dr. Michael Burton is an Assistant Professor in the Systems Neuroscience Program in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded Dr. Burton the 2019 Mitchell Max Award for his research on Delayed Onset of Neuropathic Pain in Aged Males After Peripheral Nerve Injury. Dr. Burton took a break from his research to reflect on the esteemed honor:
Researchers Chronicle Sex Differences in Origin of Chronic Pain at Cellular Level
Researchers Chronicle Sex Differences in Origin of Chronic Pain at Cellular Level Scientists in The University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for Advanced Pain Studies (CAPS) have furthered the understanding of how chronic pain functions differently in males and females, including identifying different ways pain begins at the cellular level.

Researchers from the Department of Neuroscience in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) teamed up with colleagues from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute on two studies published Aug. 5 and Sept. 16 in the journal Pain. Their work builds upon earlier studies from CAPS faculty regarding sex dimorphisms — differences between the sexes.

“As recently as 2014, laboratories were using only males to analyze what was happening, and that led to failures in clinical and preclinical trials,” said Dr. Michael Burton, assistant professor of neuroscience and co-senior author of both papers. “It was apparent that something was missing from the equation.


Scientific Advisory Board Member/ Keystone Fellowship
Advisory Board Member LSAMP Bridge-to-Doctorate Program
Advisory Board Member Mentoring Institute for Neuroscience Diversity Scientists (MINDS)


Scientific Discipline Ambassador, Neuroscience, Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS)
Co-Director, Enhancing NeuroScience Undergraduate Research Experience (ENSURE) Program
Board member, Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI), Endocrine Society
Board member, Nominations Committee, Endocrine Society
Associate Chair, Basic Science Advisory Group (BSAG), Endocrine Society
Board Member, Project ACCESS, Alliance to Catalyze Change for Equity in STEM Success,
Associate Editor, Frontiers in Immunology, Molecular Innate Immunity. Guest Editor of Neural control of Immunity, Frontiers,
Associate Review Editor, Frontiers in Pain Research, Pharmacological Treatment of Pain, Frontiers,
Editorial Board Member, Journal of Neuroinflammation
Deputy Editor, Neurobiology of Pain


- Abbott Neuromodulation []
- Rita Allen []