Neuroscience of Orofacial Pain & Temporomandibular Disorders Program

The Neuroscience of Orofacial Pain and Temporomandibular Disorders Program supports basic, translational, and clinical research on:

  • Orofacial pain and neuropathies
  • Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders
  • Development of biomarkers for diagnostics and prognostics
  • Development of therapeutics

In addition, the program encourages research that is responsive to trans-NIH initiatives including the NIH Common Fund Initiatives, the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint, and the NIH Pain Consortium.

Orofacial Pain and Neuropathies

Studies in this area focus on the pathogenesis of pain in craniofacial tissues, including temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and masticatory muscles. Investigations involving animal or human models of chronic pain conditions are of specific interest. Areas of interest include:

  • The transition from acute to chronic pain
  • The study of peripheral and central sensitization as it relates to stimuli known to induce orofacial pain
  • The evaluation of possible contributions of central pathways to the development and modulation of trigeminal pain
  • Mechanisms of peripheral nociception
  • Determinants of muscle and joint pain
  • Pain modulation including peripheral and central plasticity
  • Elucidation of underlying acute orofacial pain mechanisms
  • Identification of molecular or physiological variables associated with chronic TMJ pain
  • Examination of pain modulation circuitry attributed to inflammatory or neuropathic pain
  • Elucidation of sex-based differences associated with orofacial pain and TMD

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD)

This area of the program supports research focused on the physiology and pathology of the TMJ and the mechanisms underlying these disorders. Areas of interest include:

  • Environmental and genetic factors that increase the risk for TMDs
  • The use of state-of-the-art technologies for molecular profiling of TMJ structures including muscles, tendons, and nerves
  • The use of genomic and proteomic analyses to compare the characteristics of normal and diseased TMJ tissue
  • The development and application of new imaging technologies in the evaluation of TMDs as well as in monitoring the outcomes of treatments for temporomandibular disorders
  • Examination of possible overlap between TMD and other chronic painful disorders
  • The development of improved measures of chemosensory, tactile, kinesthetic, or proprioceptive mechanisms in craniofacial structures
  • The clarification of mechanisms used by the nervous system to detect and regulate the functional and dysfunctional state of orofacial tissues
  • The role of the nervous system in regulating jaw function in both health and disease
  • The elucidation of biochemical and electrophysiological mechanisms controlling jaw function
  • The development of improved animal models for assessing pathobiological changes in the TMJ and masticatory muscles
  • The use of contemporary biomedical techniques such as biocomputing for modeling the masticatory muscles of the TMJ and advanced molecular imaging techniques for TMJ structures
  • Examination of overlap between TMD and other chronic painful disorders.

Development of Biomarkers, Diagnostics/Prognostics

Studies in this area focus on the development of improved biomarkers for the assessment of neuropathic conditions and neurodegenerative conditions affecting oral and craniofacial tissues and structures including the TMJ.

Development of Therapeutics

The development of novel pharmacological and behavioral approaches for the treatment of orofacial pain, especially pain associated with TMDs, is supported and encouraged. Areas of interest include:

  • The elucidation of the mechanisms by which opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and other analgesic drugs work to relieve orofacial pain
  • The design and development of controlled release delivery systems for both conventional and new drugs at specific target sites to alleviate orofacial pain and inflammation.
Last Reviewed
July 2018