NessThe Ness Lab is led by Timothy J. Ness, M.D., Ph.D.

Our research focuses on the Mechanisms of Urologic-Gastroenterologic Pain. In NIH-funded studies, translational studies related to urinary bladder and colorectal sensation are being performed by measuring psychophysical responses in humans and parallel studies in rodents.  Three preclinical models of visceral hypersensitivity are employed: [1] one produced by acute inflammation; [2] one produced by stress-anxiety; and [3] one produced by developmental mechanisms that are initiated by early-in-life inflammatory events or psychological events that lead to altered neurophysiological processing as adults.  The potential for similar mechanisms in humans are now supported by epidemiological studies and functional imaging studies. Parallel quantitative sensory testing studies and regional cerebral bloodflow studies using Continuous Arterial Spin-Label functional MRI technologies are probing whether there exist phenotypic subtypes within clinical populations that correspond to the preclinical models.  

The precise interplay between excitatory and inhibitory influences that exist at a spinal level are being dissected out using behavioral, neurophysiological (spinal dorsal horn, medullary and thalamic extracellular neuronal studies) and immunohistochemical (c-fos induction) studies in this programmatic line of research. Psychophysical studies have identified deficiencies in endogenous pain control systems related to counterirritation - similar deficits have been identified in preclinical experimental models.