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Division of Intramural Research

The Division of Intramural Research Program (DIR) at NCCIH conducts basic, clinical, and translational research focusing on the role of the brain in perceiving, modifying, and managing pain. Research projects include investigating the role of the brain in pain processing and control, and how factors such as emotion, attention, environment, and genetics affect pain perception.

The program includes research that explores how chronic pain produces changes in the brain that can modify how the brain reacts to pain medications like opioids. Commonly used complementary practices to control pain, such as meditation and yoga, are also investigated.


The program is an integrated basic science and clinical research effort, conducted at the behavioral, systems and cellular levels, exploiting the state-of-the-art research tools and resources at the NIH. Projects involve collaborative efforts with other intramural neuroscience, imaging, and mental and behavioral health research programs. Chronic pain disorders studied include fibromyalgia, back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis and more. The NCCIH DIR provides a rich environment for the training and development of clinical and basic scientists.

DIR Labs and Chiefs

Understanding Pain Seminar Series—presentations for NIH staff, hosted by the NIH PAIN Special Interest Group

Interactive Pain Lecture Series—educational series for NIH IRTA trainees

Acting Scientific Director:

David Shurtleff, Ph.D.

Clinical Director:

Miroslav “Misha” Bačkonja, M.D.

Division of Intramural Research
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
National Institutes of Health
Bldg. 10, CRC, Room 4-1743 MSC 1302
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1302