Dr. M. Catherine Bushnell, an internationally recognized pain and neuroscience researcher, has been appointed scientific director of a new NIH research program focusing on the brain’s role in perceiving, modifying and managing pain.
The program will be based at NCCAM, in the intramural division. It will be multidisciplinary and highly collaborative, including other NIH research programs on neuroscience, imaging and mental and behavioral health.
Chronic pain is a major public health problem, affecting about 100 million American adults. It costs the nation up to $635 billion per year in treatment and lost productivity, according to the Institute of Medicine. Managing pain and other symptoms is the most frequent reason that Americans turn to complementary health practices. While much progress has been made in drug treatment of acute pain, better methods are needed.
“Dr. Bushnell’s work has profoundly changed the ways in which we understand and study this very important problem,” said NCCAM director Dr. Josephine Briggs. “Under her leadership, this program will continue to work toward the development of better ways to safely and more effectively treat chronic pain and advance research on the intersection and integration of pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches.”
Bushnell comes to NIH from McGill University in Montreal, where she was the Harold Griffith professor of anesthesia, director of the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, Canada research chair in clinical pain and professor in dentistry and neurology.
Bushnell began her NIH career in 1976 in postdoctoral work at what is now NIDCR, after receiving a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from American University. Her research interests include forebrain mechanisms of pain processing, psychological modulation of pain and brain changes in chronic pain patients.—Ellen O’Donnell