Division of Intramural Research
Clinical Investigations Branch
The Clinical Investigations Branch (CIB) in the NCCIH Intramural Research Program promotes high quality mechanistic clinical research targeted at understanding the development and maintenance of chronic pain, as well as novel non-pharmacological treatment modalities such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, meditation, and music. The CIB provides a clinical setting and the medical expertise to evaluate people with wide-ranging painful disorders. Working together, NCCIH clinicians and scientists examine clinical characteristics of painful conditions and their co-morbidities and explore the physiological underpinnings of these conditions. They use sensory physiological testing, structural and functional MRI in addition to behavioral and psychological testing to understand how cognitive, emotional and environmental factors influence chronic pain states. Insights from this research can ultimately be translated into meaningful interventions to provide comfort for those who live with pain.
David Shurtleff, Ph.D., is Deputy Director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Dr. Shurtleff is also currently the Acting Scientific Director and Acting Chief for both the Clinical Investigations Branch and the Pain and Integrative Neuroscience Branch, Division of Intramural Research. Read more about Dr. Shurtleff.
M. Catherine Bushnell, Ph.D., Senior Investigator
Dr. Bushnell holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the American University, Washington, D.C. and received postdoctoral training in neurophysiology at the NIH. She then spent 12 years at the University of Montreal and 16 years as the Harold Griffith Professor of Anesthesia at McGill University before returning to NIH in 2012. She has been president of the Canadian Pain Society, and treasurer and press editor-in-chief of the International Association for the Study of Pain and is currently a councilor for the Society for Neuroscience.
Among her honors are the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Pain Society and the Frederick Kerr Basic Science Research Award from the American Pain Society. Her research interests include forebrain mechanisms of pain processing, psychological modulation of pain, and neural alternations in chronic pain patients. Read more about Dr. Bushnell.
Miroslav “Misha” Bačkonja, M.D., Supervisory Physician and Acting Clinical Director
Miroslav “Misha” Bačkonja, M.D., is acting clinical director of the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). He also serves as supervisory physician in the Clinical Investigations Branch, where he is responsible for leading and designing research projects related to assessing pain and its underlying biological and neurobiological mechanisms; implementing and developing novel, precise measurements of pain; and coordinating the work of the branch staff.
Prior to his appointment at NCCIH, Dr. Bačkonja was a professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at University of Washington–Seattle. He was also professor of neurology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the University of Wisconsin Pain Treatment and Research Center. He has also served as a research clinician at contract research organizations.
Dr. Bačkonja received his M.D. from the University of Zagreb, Croatia, and completed his neurology residency and pain fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Medical School.
His clinical and research interests focus on pain and neuroimmunology, including neurological disorders, clinical research, pain mechanisms, psychophysics, and randomized clinical trials evaluating new pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies.
Dr. Bačkonja’s research has led to the publication of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, and his pain education efforts have resulted in a series of articles and book chapters, as well as numerous didactic presentations at national and international meetings. He serves as mentor to medical students, residents, clinical fellows, graduate students, and junior faculty. He also has served on editorial boards of several international scientific journals, has been a reviewer for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and international governmental funding agencies, and is a contributing member of professional societies, governing boards, and committees.
Bisi Ayodele, CRNP, Nurse Practitioner
Bisi Ayodele, CRNP, is a nurse practitioner in the Clinical Investigations Branch. She can be reached at email@example.com or (301) 827-0415.
Linda Ellison-Dejewski, CRNP, Senior Nurse Practitioner
Linda Ellison-Dejewski, CRNP, is a senior nurse practitioner in the Clinical Investigations Branch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 594-5731.
Steven Neal, Postbac IRTA
Steven Neal is a postbac IRTA in the Clinical Investigations Branch. He can be reached at email@example.com or (301) 451-2232.
Zahid Noor, Ph.D., Protocol Navigator, Contractor
Zahid Noor, Ph.D., is a protocol navigator in the Clinical Investigations Branch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 480-9912.
Marina Shpaner, Ph.D., Research Scientist
- Naylor MR, Keefe FJ, Brigidi B, et al. Therapeutic interactive voice response for chronic pain reduction and relapse prevention. Pain. 2008;134(3):335-345.
- Newhouse PA, Dumas J, Wilkins H, Coderre E, Sites CK, Naylor M, et al. Estrogen treatment impairs cognitive performance after psychosocial stress and monoamine depletion in postmenopausal women. Menopause. 2010;17(4):860-873.
- Naylor MR, Naud S, Keefe F, et al. Therapeutic Interactive Voice Response (TIVR) to reduce analgesic medication use for chronic pain management. Journal of Pain. 2010;11(12):1410-1419.
- Naylor MR, Krauthamer GM, Naud S, et al. Predictive relationships between chronic pain and negative emotion: a 4-month daily process study using Therapeutic Interactive Voice Response (TIVR). Comprehensive Psychiatry. 2011;52(6):731-736.
- Lieberman G, Naylor MR. Interactive voice response technology for symptom monitoring and as an adjunct to the treatment of chronic pain. Translational Behavioral Medicine. 2012;2(1):93-101.
- Dumas JA, Kutz AM, McDonald BC, Naylor MR, et al. Increased working memory-related brain activity in middle-aged women with cognitive complaints. Neurobiology of Aging. 2013;34(4):1145-1147.
- Seminowicz DA, Shpaner M, Keaser ML, Krauthamer GM, Mantegna J, Dumas JA, Newhouse PA, Filippi CG, Keefe FJ, Naylor MR. Cognitive-behavioral therapy increases prefrontal cortex gray matter in patients with chronic pain. Journal of Pain. 2013;14(12):1573-1584.
- Newhouse P, Albert K, Astur R, Johnson J, Naylor M, et al. Tamoxifen improves cholinergically modulated cognitive performance in postmenopausal women. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013;38(13):2632-2643.
- Lieberman G, Shpaner M, Watts R, Andrews T, Filippi CG, Davis M, Naylor MR. White matter involvement in chronic musculoskeletal pain. Journal of Pain. 2014;15(11):1110-1119.
- Shpaner M, Kelly C, Lieberman G, Perelman H, Davis M, Keefe F, Naylor MR. Unlearning chronic pain: a randomized controlled trial to investigate changes in intrinsic brain connectivity following cognitive behavioral therapy. NeuroImage: Clinical. 2014;5:365-376.
- Wylie GR, Freeman K, Thomas A, Shpaner M, OKeefe M, Watts R, Naylor MR. Cognitive improvement after mild traumatic brain injury measured with functional neuroimaging during the acute period. PLoS One. 2015;10(5):e0126110.
- Vega JN, Zurkovsky L, Albert K, Melo A, Boyd B, Dumas J, Woodward N, McDonald BC, Saykin AJ, Park JH, Naylor M, et al. Altered brain connectivity in early postmenopausal women with subjective cognitive impairment. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2016;10:433.
- Dumas JA, Filippi CG, Newhouse PA, Naylor MR. Dopaminergic contributions to working memory-related brain activation in postmenopausal women. Menopause. 2017;24(2):163-170.
- Shpaner M, Tulipani LJ, Bishop JH, Naylor MR. The vicious cycle of chronic pain in aging requires multidisciplinary non-pharmacological approach to treatment. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports. 2017;4(3):176-187.
- Thomas AW, Watts R, Filippi CG, Nickerson JP, Andrews T, Lieberman G, Naylor MR, et al. Dynamic changes in diffusion measures improve sensitivity in identifying patients with mild traumatic brain injury. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0178360.
- Bishop J, Shpaner M, Kubicki A, Clements S, Watts R, Naylor MR. Structural network differences in chronic musculoskeletal pain: beyond fractional anisotropy. NeuroImage. December 11, 2017. Epub ahead of print.