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Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders

News & Updates


Park Receives Junior Faculty Development Award

Dr. Jongbae (Jay) ParkDr. Jongbae (Jay) Park, clinical assistant professor in the School of Dentistry, was selected to receive a Junior Faculty Development Award in December 2013. The $7,500 award, conferred by the Committee on Faculty Research and Study Leaves, is to support a research project undertaken by Park during 2014.

Park received a K.M.D./Ph.D. in Korean medicine in Korea and his second Ph.D. in medical sciences at the University of Exeter, UK in 2002, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in complementary medicine at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, UK. He serves as associate editor of the Complementary Therapies in Medicine and the Trials, and as a member of editorial board of several other journals. Park, who joined the UNC faculty in 2007, is also a current recipient of a Biomedical Researcher Development Scholarship (BRDS) award. The BRDS award is administered through the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders (RCNSD) and is funded by the NIH through the K12 grant mechanism.

The objective of the BRDS, co-directed by Drs. William Maixner, Luda Diatchenko and Pei Feng Lim, is to develop the skills of emerging investigators with a background and interest in clinical and basic science related to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) and orofacial pain (OFP). The program provides direct clinical experience, interaction and mentorship by senior investigators and exposure to an interdisciplinary environment in order to prepare scholars to develop and submit a grant proposal or to otherwise position them to expand their capabilities as a future leader in the field of TMJD and OFP research and treatment.

The BRDS application process is highly competitive and selection as a K12 recipient requires a three-year full-time commitment, including up to 20 percent effort in clinical activities. Park was selected for the 2012-15 award period. In addition to acupuncture for joint injury and other conditions, his specialty interests include integrative medicine, herbal medicine research and rehabilitation device technology. Park is recognized worldwide as the investor of the Park Sham Device for Acupuncture Research.

The Junior Faculty Development Award will allow Park to pursue his research into inflammatory cytokine changes following acupuncture treatment as a mechanism for pain regulation and perception of wellbeing in patients with TMJD.


Dr. Tchivileva wins this year's K12 award!

The UNC K12 award is a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD) and Orofacial Pain (OFP) Research Career Development Award which aims to foster the career development of independent basic, clinical and translational research scholars who can lead multi-disciplinary research teams to apply novel approaches to TMJD and OFP research. Our 2012-15 K12 Scholars are Drs. Jongbae Park and Shad Smith.

The K12 Program received numerous outstanding applications this year. Following a very rigorous selection process, the Co-Program Directors, Drs. Maixner, Diatchenko and Lim, wish to announce this year's K12 Scholar Dr. Inna Tchivileva. Dr. Tchivileva's research investigates the genetic, biological, and psychological pathways that mediate complex persistent pain conditions. Her goals are to conduct research in translational pain medicine and identify genetic biomarkers for the personalized treatment of pain.

Congratulations, Dr. Tchivileva!


RCNSD Gala Opening on October 18, 2012 - Save the Date!

Earlier in 2012, the Center for Neurosensory Disorders was reestablished as the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders (RCNSD) with expansion of its research, education, and patient care initiatives as well as research lab, clinic and office space. The RCNSD is centrally located on the 5th floor of the new, state-of-the-art, LEED (green building) certified Koury Oral Health Sciences Building. Clinical research space will be moved to the Old Dental building and is being renovated at the time of this announcement to accommodate our active, multidisciplinary research program. What better way to celebrate and share our excitement than with a gala opening! Come join us on Thursday, October 18, 2012!

We are pleased to announce presentations from our own Bill Maixner, DDS, PhD, Director of the RCNSD, and James Beck, PhD, the UNC School of Dentistry's Executive Associate Dean, as well as Ronald Dubner, DDS, PhD, from the University of Maryland, Jon Levine, MD, PhD, from the University of California, San Francisco, Stephen McMahon, PhD, from King's College in London and Dennis Turk, PhD, from the University of Washington. We will also give tours of our new space in KOHS and the developing clinical research space in Old Dental, and of course, we will provide refreshments. We look forward to seeing you there and sharing our new developments!

Spread the word with our Save-the-Date flyer! Check out the complete agenda.


Dr. Maixner gives an interview on live radio!

On March 28, 2012, Dr. Maixner was a guest on the local science radio program, Radio In Vivo, and gave a live interview on his research on chronic pain and on the OPPERA Study. Listen to the interview.

Radio In Vivo is a weekly science interview radio program that airs Wednesdays at 11AM on community radio station WCOM-FM 103.5 in Carrboro, NC. They feature in-depth interviews with the researchers who make the Research Triangle of North Carolina one of the world’s leading hubs of scientific research and development.


Directors of the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders and National Vulvodynia Association provide testimony to US Senate on Chronic Pain.

On February 15, 2012, Dr. Bill Maixner provided testimony at the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) hearing entitled Pain in America: Exploring Challenges to Relief. Maixner's testimony to the HELP Committee focused on the June 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on chronic pain, Relieving Pain in America, as well as current barriers impeding the improvement of care for those with chronic pain disorders. Read the full story.

In this same hearing, Director of the National Vulvodynia Association, Christin Veasley, also gave testimony from the patient advocacy perspective. Many of you know Ms. Veasley from the presentation she gave as part of our Seminar Series in September 2011. As well, the NVA has been an enthusiastic supporter of our research endeavors as a sponsor and patient advocacy organization. To read more about the NVA's Senate Hearing experience and to catch a few photos of Ms. Veasley and Dr. Maixner in action on Capitol Hill, check out the NVA's Spring 2012 Newsletter.


Reuters Article on Acupuncture for Migraines features RCNSD Researchers

A recent article published by Reuters on Jan. 9, 2012 and based on findings published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal addresses the question of sham acupunture efficacy in migraine research and treatment. The article features interviews with Dr. Jongbae Park, Director of Asian Medicine and Acupuncture Research in the UNC School of Medicine and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Endodontics here in the School of Dentistry, and Dr. Albrecht Molsberger, Ruhr University Bochum and President of Forschungsgruppe Akupunktur, a for-profit acupuncture training facility in Germany, and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Endodontics, UNC School of Dentistry. Check it out - link to PDF.


Congratulations, Karen Thomas!

The Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders is proud to announce that Karen Thomas has received UNC's 5 Year Service Award! Ms. Thomas is an integral member of our research team. As a dental hygienist by training, Ms. Thomas focuses her efforts at the CNSD as a Clinical Examiner and Research Coordinator for our long-running Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA) study. In her 5 years at UNC, she has seen hundreds of research subjects, tested a thousand temporomandibular joints, and is dangerously close to reciting the phone script in her sleep. We appreciate her dedication. Thank you, Karen!


Upcoming Meetings and Abstract Deadlines

January 28, 2012 (Sat) - UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders Research Day 2012; Siena Hotel; Chapel Hill, NC.

February 7-9, 2012 (Tu-Thu) - 10th IASP Research Symposium: The Genetics of Pain: Science, Medicine, and Drug Development; Miami Beach, FL.

February 29, 2012 (Wed) - UNC-CH School of Dentistry Dental Research in Review Day (DRRD). For abstract submission instructions, click here. Sign up for Lunch and Learn sessions

March 21-24, 2012 (Wed - Sat) - International Association for Dental Research (IADR): 41st Annual Meeting & Exhibition of the AADR; Tampa, FL.

May 16-19, 2012 (Wed-Sat) - American Pain Society 31st Annual Scientific Meeting; Honolulu, HI.

August 27-31, 2012 (Mon-Fri) - International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP): 14th World Congress on Pain; Milan, IT. Abstract submission deadline is Monday, February 6, 2012.

October 13-17, 2012 (Sat-Wed) - Society for Neuroscience: Neuroscience 2012; New Orleans, LA. Abstract submission deadline for Neuroscience is Thursday, May 10, 2012.

November 6-10, 2012 (Tu-Sat) - American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG): 62nd Annual Meeting; San Francisco, CA. Abstract submission deadline is Monday, June 4, 2012.

November 9-14, 2012 (Fri-Wed) - American College of Rheumatology: 76th Annual ACR/ARHP Scientific Meeting 2012; Washington, DC. Abstract submission deadline is Tuesday, June 26, 2012.


NIH Pain Consortium Symposium and FDA Workshop May 29-31, 2012

The NIH Pain Consortium announces their 7th Annual Pain Consortium Symposium on Advances in Pain Research, entitled “Advancing Pain Therapies.” The Symposium will be held May 29 and 30, 2012.

The FDA announces its workshop “Assessment of Analgesic Treatment of Chronic Pain: A Scientific Workshop” to be held on May 30 and 31, 2012.

These events will be held on the NIH campus, Bethesda, MD. Check back soon for a link to further details!


Initial OPPERA findings are published in a special supplement to the Novermber 2011 issue of the Journal of Pain

Members of the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders report the initial findings from the first large scale population study that will identify risk factors and determinates for common chronic pain conditions. Drs. Maixner and Slade are lead investigators on the multisite, longitudinal research study, entitled Orofacial Pain:  Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA), that is in its 7th and final yearof funding. From the NIDCR press release, "These initial results from [this] study provide a voluminous body of high-quality data that confirms many previous discoveries and adds several new possibilities for risk [of TMJD]."  These results examine baseline data, primarily, to give an overview of the study and a detailed review of the population under study. Plans are underway for the researchers to publish a second compendium of results so stay tuned!

UNC serves as the lead study site, with the University of Florida, the University at Buffalo, and the University of Maryland at Baltimore rounding out the recruitment sites. Battelle, Inc. has served as the data coordinating center. The study is sponsored by the National Intitute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the NIH. Link to the JOP Supplement.


DFP Orofacial Pain Clinic Welcomes Dr. Park!

Dr. Jongbae J. Park, KMD, PhD, joined the School of Dentistry as an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Endodontics on September 1, 2011.  As a clinician in the Dental Faculty Practice Orofacial Pain Clinic, Dr. Park provides consults and treats patients with orofacial pain, dental anxiety, xerostomia, and other oral symptoms (

Dr. Park received his BS/KMD, MA and PhD in Korean Medicine at Kyung Hee University, Korea in 2001 and his PhD in Medical Sciences at the University of Exeter, UK, in 2002.  His postdoctoral training was as a Research Fellow in Complementary Medicine ILMAEK Medical Foundation/Peninsula Medical School, UK.  He is registered as a Korean Medicine Doctor with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Korea.  Dr. Park became a licensed acupuncturist in the State of North Carolina and a Diplomat in Oriental Medicine, National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in 2008. He is the inventor of the Park Sham Device used worldwide in acupuncture research. He is also the Director of Asian Medicine and Acupuncture Research at the UNC School of Medicine Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Park is a board member of the following professional societies: Int’l Society of Complementary Medicine Research, Society of Acupuncture Research and American Congress of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  He has published many articles in the field, and is editor of Complementary Therapies in Medicine (Elsevier). Dr. Park also has research collaboration with the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders.

Click here for the Dental Acupuncture Brochure.


Recent IOM Report Recommends Improved Care and Attitudes for Undertreated Chronic Pain

In June 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a call-to-action report entitled, Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research. According to the IOM, pain affects more than 116 million Americans and costs the nation between $560 billion and $635 billion annually. It is a major cause of work disability and one of the most common reasons for taking medications. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 called for the Institute of Medicine to explore the public health significance of pain in the United States. This report presents the findings and recommendations from an IOM committee convened to identify barriers to pain care and ways to overcome these obstructions. The committee has recommended changes that can be implemented as early as the end of 2012, and changes that should be in place by 2015 and maintained as ongoing efforts.

For more complete information about the landmark report, check out the following resources:

Read the full press release.
Read the report: Brief report PDF; Full report PDF
IOM Pain Report website.


Congratulations, Dr. Zolnoun!

The Society for Women’s Health Research has recognized Denniz Zolnoun with the 2011 Medtronic Prize for Scientific Contributions to Women’s Health for her outstanding research efforts toward the study of chronic pain syndromes in women, with emphasis on pelvic pain and vulvar vestibulitis. The prize encourages women scientists and engineers to work on issues uniquely related to women’s health and rewards women who have devoted a significant part of their careers to this area. The prize is given to an outstanding scientist or engineer in mid-career whose work has led or will lead directly to the improvement of women’s health.

Click here for additional information and a list of past recipients.


Congratulations, Doug Tsao!

Doug is recipient of the 2011 Derek T. Turner Award - Student Research Awards of NC-AADR for his abstract: “Disruptive mRNA Folding Increases Translational Efficiency.” D. Tsao, L. Diatchenko, J. Gauthier, N.V. Dokholyan, S.A. Shabalina. The Turner award is given for excellence in clinical and basic science research to undergraduate and graduate student oral/poster competitors who present during the annual UNC Dental Research in Review Day.

Click here for a brief history of the Turner Award and past recipients.


The American Pain Society's 29th Annual Scientific Meeting

This year's APS Meeting is sure to be exciting with presentations from many of our CNSD colleagues, including a 3-hr OPPERA workshop that will focus on outlining the goals, methods, and early findings of this major epidemiological study, with emphasis on biopsychosocial and genetic risk factors that contribute to the development of TMJD.

May 6-8, 2010
Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland

For more information, check out the APS Meeting website.

The 5th Annual NIH Pain Consortium Symposium

"This year’s NIH Pain Consortium Symposium, titled “Moving Towards Personalized Pain Management,” will include presentations and discussions of three topic areas: development of tools for individualized pain management, emerging therapies, and translating research in tailored pain management. The members of the Pain Consortium have invited a selective group of highly talented junior investigators to present posters representing a broad spectrum of current pain research findings. Researchers, health care providers, and the public are invited to attend. Registration is free. The event will be hosted by the co-chairs of the NIH Pain Consortium."

The 5th Annual NIH Pain Consortium Symposium: Moving Towards Personalized Pain Management

May 5th, 2010, 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM
Lipsett Amphitheater, Building 10, NIH
Bethesda, MD

Registration is now open. For more information, check out the Pain Consortium website.

CNSD Publication Awarded "Top Cited" Honor

The following publication was honored recently as one of the Top 10 cited papers (2006-2008) published in Pain:

Diatchenko L, Nackley AG, Slade GD, Bhalang K, Belfer I, Max MB, Goldman D, Maixner W. Catechol-O-methyltransferase gene polymorphisms are associated with multiple pain-evoking stimuli. Pain. 2006 Dec 5;125(3):216-24. Epub 2006 Jul 11.

The publishers at Elsevier will be granting "Top Cited" certificates to all contributing authors. Congratulations go to both the co-authors and team members from the CNSD who contributed to this notable effort!

Congratulations Dr. Nackley!

Andrea Nackley, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2010 John C. Liebeskind Early Career Scholar Award, which recognizes early career achievements that make or show substantial promise of making an outstanding contribution to pain scholarship.  Dr. Nackley was nominated by CNSD colleagues, Luda Diatchenko and William Maixner, who have enjoyed a rewarding collaboration with her.  She was honored on May 6, 2010 at the Centers of Excellence Gala Dinner and Awards ceremony during the 29th Annual Meeting of the American Pain Society in Baltimore, MD.

Read about John C. Liebeskind (1935–1997)

Congratulations Dr. Maixner!

Maixner Awarded Prestigious University Professorship

- The University Gazette contributed to this story; September 29, 2009

Dr. William Maixner, a UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member since 1985, has been named a Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham Distinguished Professor at the University.
He and the other new recipients of Kenan and W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professorships were honored Sept. 22 at a Carolina Inn reception hosted by the Office of the Provost.

Maixner directs the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders, based in the School of Dentistry. He is a full professor in the School of Dentistry’s Department of Endodontics, as well as the School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and the Curriculum in Neurobiology.

He served as associate dean for the School of Dentistry’s Office of Academic Affairs from 1999 to 2005.

Maixner’s internationally recognized research centers on environmental and genetic factors affecting the development and treatment of pain. He has more than 120 research publications and has served in leadership roles within leading research journals.

“Dr. Maixner has the current distinction of having the most external (NIH) funding of any researcher in the UNC School of Dentistry,” wrote Dr. Eric M. Rivera, chairman of the Department of Endodontics, in his nomination letter, adding that “… it is clear that he has an outstanding record of distinction in the dental school, university, nationally and internationally. His impact and effective contributions have been and will continue for some time to be far-reaching and sustained.”

Maixner’s leadership was instrumental in one of the largest grants in the University’s history: the OPPERA, or Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment, study. Announced in 2005, this $19 million, seven-year cooperative initiative with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research focuses on temporomandibular joint disorder and related conditions and involves collaboration within the University and beyond.

Colleagues within the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders also praised Maixner’s mentorship abilities in their nomination letter.

“In addition to his heavy lecture and graduate course load, Dr. Maixner serves as a formal or informal mentor to basic scientists and clinician researchers across UNC,” wrote Drs. Luda Diatchenko, Andrea Neely, Richard Gracely and Samuel McLean.

“Through his indefatigable energy, perpetual optimism and warm supportive personality, Dr. Maixner creates an environment that stimulates outstanding personal and professional achievement.”

Created in 1917 through the bequest of Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham, the Kenan Professorships were among the University’s earliest endowments. She created these professorships in honor of her father, Thomas S. Kenan, and uncle, James Graham Kenan. Her bequest was one of the largest gifts made to a state university at the time.

Study Findings Have Implications For Development Of Pain-Relieving Drugs

Morphine and other opioids are widely used to treat both acute and chronic pain – yet their benefits are often limited because some people experience side effects or do not respond to them efficiently.

Now, new research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders, based within the School of Dentistry, has identified genetic variants that offer insight into individual responses to morphine. Researchers said long-term implications of the findings may include the development of drugs with greater pain-relieving effects and fewer side effects, as well as the development of genetic tests predicting individual responses to these medications.

Up to one-third of people treated with opioids develop substantial side effects, said Dr. Luda Diatchenko, an associate professor in the center and the study’s co-senior author. In addition, there is more than a 10-fold difference in the responses – some patients show a very good response and others show a very poor response to the same amount.

The study, which appeared in the March 15, 2009, issue of the journal Human Molecular Genetics, identifies new variations in the gene that produces the OPRM1 receptor, the primary biological target for opioid analgesics such as morphine. The research also provides evidence that the receptor carries many more genetic variations than previously thought.

“Genetic variations in this receptor play a crucial role in individual responsiveness to these drugs, but we currently have very little understanding of its genetic structures and molecular and cellular mechanisms,” Diatchenko said.

She added that collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information had provided crucial insights into these mechanisms. Bioinformatics is an emerging field combining information technology and biology.

“Bioinformatics has become one of the driving forces of modern biomedical science,” said Dr. Svetlana Shabalina, a senior scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the other study co-senior author. “Bioinformatic tools are indispensable for the identification of underlying genetic causes in complex disorders. We expect many important discoveries in this field.”

 “The outcomes of these studies are very exciting and are likely to lead to new diagnostic tests that will permit clinicians to predict a patient’s risk for inadequate or adverse responses to opioids,” said Dr. William Maixner, co-author of the study, director of the Regional Center for Neurosensory Disorders and professor of endodontics and pharmacology in the UNC-Chapel Hill schools of dentistry and medicine, respectively. “The outcomes may also enable the development of a new class of opioids that are safer and more effective than those currently available,” he said.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Other study authors from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry are Dr. Pavel Gris, Josee Gauthier and Dr. Inna E. Tchivileva. Additional study authors are Dr. Dmitri V. Zaykin and Dr. Kyoko Shibata of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; Dr. Aleksey Y. Ogurtsov of the National Center for Biotechnology Information; Dr. Inna Belfer of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Bikashkumar Mishra and Dr. Carly Kiselycznyk of the NIDCR and NIAAA; Dr. Margaret R. Wallace of the University of Florida College of Medicine;  Dr.Roland Staud and Dr. Roger B. Fillingim of the University of Florida College of Dentistry; Dr. Nikolay A. Spiridonov of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Mitchell B. Max of the NIDCR and University of Pittsburgh; and Dr. David Goldman of the NIAAA.

Link to story:

Congratulations Dr. Slade!

Dr. Gary Slade's paper, "Influence of psychological factors on risk of temporomandibular disorders", has been selected as the winner of the 2009 Giddon Award.  His paper received the most scoring points from a panel of 5 judges.

Congratulations Dr. Essick!

Dr. Gregory Essick received the 2008 William J. Gies Award for the best paper published in the Journal of Dental Research during the preceding year. Essick was the first author on a paper titled "Effect of Facial Sensory Re-training on Sensory Thresholds," resulting from a clinical trial funded through the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research. Essick received the award during the International Association for Dental Research's 86th General Session and Exhibition's opening ceremonies in Toronto June 25, 2008.

Last Modified: 04/18/2012