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Selected Research Results by Date

NCCIH funds a wide variety of research studies, primarily focusing on three areas: mind and body practices, natural products, and pain. We also conduct research at the National Institutes of Health laboratories in Bethesda, Maryland.

This page provides plain language summaries of a few of the studies that NCCIH has supported or conducted. For more information, see this full list of published NCCIH-funded research studies in PubMed.

Chesler study Neuron

New Insights Into the Molecules and Neurons Responsible for Sense of Touch
Combining two techniques—single cell RNA-sequencing and in vivo functional imaging—has led to new insights into the underlying basis for the complex sense of touch.
November 2020

Physician and patient interacting

New Research Identifies a Potential Brain-Behavioral Mechanism for Pain Relief Associated With the Patient-Clinician Interaction
Harmony in behavior and brain circuitry may contribute to the pain relief associated with the patient-clinician interaction, according to a new study partially supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health published in the journal Science Advances.
October 2020

Image of a multicolor in situ hybridization showing sensory neurons that innervate the bladder (magenta) express the Piezo2 gene (green)

PIEZO2 Ion Channel Critical Mediator of Urinary Tract Function
New research has uncovered the mechanisms by which bladder stretch is sensed and the urethral reflexes involved in urination are controlled. The findings pinpoint the gene PIEZO2 as a key mechanosensor for interoception, which is the sensory regulation and awareness of what’s happening inside our bodies.
October 2020

Older adult in pain

Study Explores Relationship Between Pain and Cognitive Impairment
A recent study exploring the association between pain and cognitive impairment (CI) found that pain and CI each increase the severity of the other; that is, when pain progresses from acute pain to high impact chronic pain (HICP), the severity of CI increases, and as the severity of CI increases, the severity of pain increases. Further, the study found that people with comorbid chronic pain and CI are in a much higher state of self-reported disability than people with either alone. The study, published in a recent issue of The Clinical Journal of Pain, was supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
October 2020

An older person sitting in a chair

Characterizing Post-Exertional Malaise in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
New research suggests that post-exertional malaise (PEM) in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) varies greatly among individuals and leads to a diminished quality of life. Recently published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, this is the first publication resulting from the NIH Intramural Study on ME/CFS, which is led by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in collaboration with dozens of investigators from at least eight institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health, including the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
September 2020

Drawing of brain and spinal cord

New Study Links Signaling by Immune Cells in the Meninges to Anxiety-Like Behavior
A new study provides insights into how a population of immune cells in the meninges (the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) regulates anxiety-like behavior in mice through neuroimmune signaling.
September 2020

Woman rubbing neck in pain

Comparing the Neural Effects of Placebo Pain Relief in Fibromyalgia Patients and Healthy Individuals

Although fibromyalgia is associated with changes in brain function and neural pathways, researchers saw no differences in responses to placebo pain relief between fibromyalgia patients and healthy volunteers in a new study. This research, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), was recently published in the journal Pain.

September 2020

Illustration of a person in meditation

Researchers Develop New Metrics for Measuring Mental States During Meditation
In a recent proof-of-principle study, researchers developed a new framework, based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, to identify mental states during meditation, including the focus-on-breath state and mind wandering, and to estimate how much time meditators spend in each state.
August 2020

Woman rubbing neck in pain

Study Provides New Insights Into Changes in Brain Function in Fibromyalgia

Pain at the time of testing, rather than the presence of a chronic pain condition, is primarily responsible for changes in the functioning of the brain’s default mode network in patients with fibromyalgia, according to the results of a study recently published in the journal NeuroImage. The study, conducted at the National Institutes of Health and McGill University, was partly funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s intramural research program.

August 2020

drawing of intestines

New Study Provides Insight Into the Causation of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
The abnormal production of a gut enzyme, lysozyme, which breaks down bacterial cell walls, affecting gut bacterial growth, may contribute to the causation of inflammatory bowel diseases by changing the composition of the gut bacterial community and thereby modifying mucosal inflammation, according to a new study published in the journal Immunity.
August 2020