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Commons Laboratory | Dusica Bajic - MD, PhD

Dusica Bajic, MD, PhD

Serial section through vGlut1 axon to view synapse morphology.

Department Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine
Hospital Title Assistant in Periopertive Anesthesia
Academic Title Instructor in Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School
Phone 617-919-2240
Fax 617-730-0894
Location Boston Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston MA 02115


Dusica Bajic, MD, PhD, joined Dr. Commons' research group and became faculty member following her fellowship training in Pediatric Anesthesiology at Boston Children's Hospital. She is now a proactive clinician scientist who created a key program using infant animal models to determine how morphine acts in the developing brain that is different from that in adult for which she has received funding from the prestigious Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER; Investigation of the supraspinal mechanisms of age-dependent development of opioid tolerance is crucial to better understand the actions of opioid medications in human infants and children during surgery, critical illness or cancer treatment.


Age Differences of Brain Circuits Mediating Morphine Effect and Development of Morphine Tolerance
Summary: Accumulating evidence suggests that opioid tolerance rapidly develops in neonates and infants. The ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) is a key component of supraspinal pain-modulatory pathways, and plasticity in this area is strongly implicated in analgesic tolerance. This proposal focuses on understanding how adaptations in the vlPAG that occur with tolerance may differ between young, intermediate-aged and adult rats. Neurons associated with tolerance will be identified by the presence of the immediate early gene product Fos, as well as the neuronal isoform of nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). The proposed studies would represent the first step in our understanding of neurochemical changes in the vlPAG associated with tolerance in developing brain. This is an important new area of research that may provide novel insights into molecular mechanisms of opioid tolerance that will lead to novel clinical therapies that differ with age.

Acute morphine leads to activation of neurons in the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (PAG) as demonstrated by increased number of Fos-immunoreactive nuclei (red). 


Dr. Bajic received her MD from the Medical School of the University of Belgrade, Serbia and PhD from the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, IL. Her postdoctoral training included: (1) postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, (2) Anesthesia Residency training at Yale New Haven Hospital, Yale University, as well as (3) Pediatric Anesthesia Fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard University where she now works as board certified staff anesthesiologist since 2008.


  • Bajic, D. & Commons, K.G. (2010). Visualizing acute pain - morphine interaction in monoamine descending pain modulatory pathways with Fos. Brain Res. 1306: 29-38.
  • Soriano, S.G., Liu, Q., Li, J., Liu, J-R., Han, X.H., Kanter, J.L., Bajic, D. & Ibla, J.C. (2010). Ketamine activates cell cycle signaling and apoptosis in the neonatal rat brain. Anesthesiology, in press.
  • Bajic, D. & Commons, K.G. (2009). Acute noxious stimulation increases morphine effect in subset of serotonergic and not dopaminergic midbrain areas. Neuroscience, 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.12.031.
  • Ibla, J.C., Hayashi, H., Bajic, D. & Soriano, S.G. (2009). Prolonged exposure to ketamine increases brain derived neurotrophic factor levels in developing rat brain. Curr. Drug Saf. 4: 11-16.
  • Bajic, D., Hoang, Q.V., Nakajima, S. & Nakajima, Y. (2004). Dissociated histaminergic neuron cultures from the tuberomammillary nucleus of rats: culture methods and ghrelin effects. J. Neurosci. Method. 132: 177-184.
  • Hoang, Q.V., Bajic, D., Yanagisawa, M., Nakajima, S. & Nakajima, Y. (2003). Effects of Orexin (Hypocretin) on GIRK channels. J. Neurophys. 90:693-702.
  • Bajic, D., Koike, M., Albsoul-Younes, A.M., Nakajima, S. & Nakajima, Y. (2002). Two different inward rectifier K+ channels are effectors for transmitter-induced slow excitation in brain neurons. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 99 (22) 14494-14499.
  • Bajic, D., Van Bockstaele, E.J. & Proudfit, H.K. (2001). Ultrastructural analysis of ventrolateral periaqueductal gray projections to the A7 catecholamine cell group. Neuroscience 104 (1): 181-197.
  • Van Bockstaele, E.J., Bajic, D., Proudfit, H.K. & Valentino, R. (2001). Topographic architecture of stress-related pathways targeting the noradrenergic locus coeruleus. Physiol. Behav. 73 (3): 273-283.
  • Bajic, D., Proudfit, H.K. & Van Bockstaele, E.J. (2000). Periaqueductal gray neurons monosynaptically innervate extranuclear noradrenergic dendrites in the rat pericoerulear region. J. Comp. Neurol. 427 (4): 649-662.
  • Bajic, D. & Proudfit, H.K. (1999). Projections of neurons in the periaqueductal gray to pontine and medullary catecholamine cell groups involved in the modulation of nociception. J. Comp. Neurol. 405 (3): 359-379.

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