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A Year of Building a Pain Program at NIH

August 14, 2013
Catherine Bushnell
M. Catherine Bushnell, Ph.D.

Scientific Director
Division of Intramural Research
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

View Dr. Bushnell’s biographical sketch

Summer 2013 marks the first anniversary of Dr. Catherine Bushnell’s appointment as Scientific Director of NCCAM’s Division of Intramural Research. You can find out more about Dr. Bushnell and the Division here. The blog team asked Dr. Bushnell for a few reflections on her first year at NCCAM.

The first year of the new NCCAM intramural pain research program has been a great success.

A doctor assists a person in prepation for a CAT scan.
© Lisa Helfert

  • The program now has a staff scientist, a nurse practitioner, two postdoctoral fellows, two predoctoral fellows, and three postbaccalaureate fellows; their biosketches are here.
  • We have established the Pain and Integrative Neuroscience (PAIN) Laboratory, with a focus on studying mechanisms underlying nonpharmacological modulation of pain.
  • Within the Laboratory, a number of studies have been approved and are underway. For example:
    • Lucie Low, M.Sc., Ph.D., is studying the effects of stress on pain processing, examining how stress can either lead to hyperalgesia or analgesia, depending on the timing and context.
    • Mark Pitcher, M.Sc., Ph.D., is studying how exercise affects pain and the neural mechanisms underlying such modulation.
    • Scott Thompson is looking at the release of endogenous opioids in the brain during pain.
    • Chantal Villemure, M.Sc., Ph.D., is determining how pain processing and brain functioning differ between people who practice yoga regularly and those who do not.
    • Marta Ceko (in photo) is beginning a study of differences in pain modulation in chronic pain patients and healthy individuals.

This upcoming year will be filled with even more growth to the program. In addition to continuing the studies begun in our lab, we will have on board a new tenure-track scientist, Alex Chesler, Ph.D. Dr. Chesler received a doctorate from Columbia University and did postdoctoral studies in the David Julius Lab at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Chesler will be located in NIH’s new Porter Neuroscience Research Center and will study pain transduction mechanisms, as well as pain circuitry in the central nervous system.

We are looking forward to continued growth and investigation to help shed light on pain processing and modulation, ultimately with the aim of helping patients better manage this very difficult-to-treat condition.


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