The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, announced today that M. Catherine Bushnell, PhD, has been appointed Scientific Director of the Division of Intramural Research. Bushnell, an internationally known pain expert, will lead a new research program at NCCAM focused on the brain’s role in perceiving, modifying, and managing pain.
The appointment of Bushnell, who arrives at the NIH from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, promises to raise the profile of pain research across the NIH, according to PRF science advisor Allan Basbaum, University of California, San Francisco, US. In a written statement, Basbaum told PRF, “Despite the fact that pain research is funded at many of the institutes at the NIH, since Ron Dubner [who established the first interdisciplinary pain research team at the NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in the 1970s; Dubner is now at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, US] left the NIH, the intramural pain research program has been without a recognized leader. The appointment of Dr. Catherine Bushnell has finally addressed that problem. Not only is Dr. Bushnell among the world’s premier researchers in the field of pain, but because her research cuts across preclinical and clinical areas, she is also among the few who can bridge the diversity of approaches and questions in which the field is engaged. Her studies have involved electrophysiological analysis of neurons in the awake, behaving primate brain; imaging of the human brain; and, more recently, rodent studies that assess emotional features of the pain experience. In each of these areas, Dr. Bushnell has made major contributions.”
He continued, “At McGill University, she led a large group of outstanding pain researchers who turned that institution into a world leader in pain research. She will certainly be missed in Montreal, but the experience that she brings to the NIH bodes exceptionally well for the growth, development, and hopefully future funding of pain research, both intramurally and extramurally.”
In her new role at NCCAM, Bushnell will lead research projects focused on the role of the brain in pain processing and control; how emotion, attention, environment, and genetics affect pain perception; and how chronic pain alters the brain response to analgesic drugs like opioids.
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