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Eberly News Blog

14 May

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Have you ever dreaded a trip to the dentist? Odds are, you have. But do you know why?

Cameron L. Randall, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology at West Virginia University is exploring why some people tolerate dental pain better than others.

The National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research within the National Institutes of Health will fund the research with the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, which will total approximately $107,000.

Randall is looking at how genes and environment interact to produce fear of pain, dental care-related fear and dental treatment avoidance in humans.

A 2009 study proposed that variants of the MC1R Gene, a gene associated with red-headedness, may lead people to be more sensitive to dental pain. However, this study did not show that redheaded people (or, similarly, participants with the MC1R variants) were more likely to be pain sensitive.

Randall plans to test the hypothesis that variants of the gene are related to increased dental pain sensitivity, and if that is related to a fear of pain, fear of the dentist and avoidance of the dentist.

“The big picture here is trying to understand the complex system that leads people to avoid dental treatment, particularly people who have access to dental treatment, but don’t utilize it,” he said.

His research, which bridges psychological science, behavior genetics, dentistry, and public health, is intended to improve understanding of psychosocial barriers to health care.

“I think that to solve society’s complex health problems, we all need to work together. We all need to bring our own expertise to the table,” Randall said.

“This transdisciplinary science is the only way to do that.”

He is the first Eberly College student to win the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award.

Randall completed his undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in biology and psychology. After working as a research assistant at the Center for Developmental Science in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he began studying clinical psychology at West Virginia University, earning a master’s degree in 2012. His doctoral mentor at WVU is Daniel W. McNeil, Ph.D.

For more information about Randall and his research, visit



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