Skip to main content

Selected Research Results

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. The summaries are ordered by date, with the most recent studies first. For more information, see this full list of published NCCIH-funded research studies in PubMed.

New Machine Learning Strategy for Optimizing Interventions in Causal Model Design
Researchers developed a new active learning—or machine learning—strategy that outperformed existing approaches for identifying optimal interventions when designing causal models. The new approach, which was developed by researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, was recently described in a paper in Nature Machine Intelligence. The research was partially funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

October 2023

Characterization of sacral DRG neurons

The Mechanoreceptive Ion Channel PIEZO2 Plays a Critical Role in Sexual Function
Uncovering the biomechanical processes underlying human touch and sensation is critical to understanding this essential human function and key to discovering potential new approaches to treating pain, a key National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) priority. NCCIH’s research is contributing to a growing understanding of the mechanoreceptive ion channel PIEZO2 and its essential role in discriminative touch in both mice and humans, in different parts of the body. 

August 2023

Illustration of gastrointestinal tract

PIEZO2 Ion Channel Plays a Key Role in Gastrointestinal Motility and Bowel Sensation
New research has identified mechanisms involved in sensing the presence of food in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and controlling the transit of GI contents. The findings demonstrate a key role for the protein PIEZO2 in controlling GI motility, a process critical for proper digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste removal. This research, conducted jointly by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Scripps Research Institute, and other collaborating institutions, was published in a recent issue of the journal Cell.

August 2023

illustration of chronic pain

U.S. National Survey Data Show High Rates of New Cases and Persistence of Chronic Pain
New cases of chronic pain occur more often among U.S. adults than new cases of several other common conditions, including diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. Among people who have chronic pain, almost two-thirds will still have it the following year. These findings come from a new analysis of National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data by investigators from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and University of Washington, published in JAMA Network Open.

May 2023

Pain icon over rainbow colors

The Prevalence of Pain Among Sexual Minority Adults Is Higher Than Among Straight Adults, National Survey Data Show
Pain prevalence is significantly higher among sexual minority adults than straight adults, with the highest levels among those who identify as bisexual or “something else,” followed by those who identify as gay or lesbian, according to a new analysis of 2013–2018 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). This analysis, published in the journal Pain, was conducted by researchers from the University of Western Ontario; University at Buffalo, State University of New York; Michigan State University; Ohio State University; and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 

March 2023

Illustration of CBD and marijuana leaf

When Taken Orally, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol With Cannabidiol Can Result in Stronger Drug Effects Than Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Alone
New research contradicts prior claims and clarifies the interactions between the two main cannabinoids—Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)—when they are ingested orally as part of an edible cannabis product. The study’s findings suggest that CBD can inhibit the metabolism of Δ9-THC when the two are consumed together, leading to increased effects than when the same dose of Δ9-THC is consumed without CBD. The study, recently published in the journal JAMA Network Open, was led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and partially funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

February 2023

Illustration of Piezo 1

New Study Fails To Replicate Research That Suggested a Novel Activity of Piezo1
Contrary to the findings of a study published 2 years ago, the ion channel Piezo1 does not react to microbial single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) in the gut, according to a new study by investigators from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and The Scripps Research Institute. The new study, which was funded by the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, was published in the journal eLife.

November 2022

illustration of brain

New Study Explores How Instructions and Learning Affect Pain Perception and the Brain
Both learning and verbal instructions influence expectations and people’s perception of pain, but responses differ in different regions of the brain, according to a new study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health, published in eLife. The findings of this study, which was conducted by the intramural research programs of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the National Institute of Mental Health, may help researchers develop better treatments for pain.

November 2022

Illustration of a person with low-back pain

U.S. National Survey Identifies Associations Between Chronic Severe Back Pain and Disability
According to a new analysis of national survey data, 8.2 percent of American adults have chronic severe back pain, and about three-quarters (74.8 percent) of those with chronic severe back pain have difficulties with mobility, social participation, self-care, or work participation. The analysis, conducted by researchers at the Université de Montréal and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, was published in The Journal of Pain

September 2022

Illustration of Akkermansa munciphila

Researchers Identify a Phospholipid Responsible for the Immunomodulatory Activity of an Important Gut Bacterium
In a recent study published in Nature and partly funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard identified a specific lipid responsible for the immunomodulatory properties of the gut bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila and explored the mechanisms by which it exerts its effects.

July 2022