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DaSilva Lab receives $2.2 million grant for TMD pain research

Dr. Alex DaSilva

Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct. 13, 2016 –- Dr. Alex DaSilva, assistant professor in the Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, has received a $2.2 million award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to study one of the most important analgesic systems in the brains of patients with chronic temporomandibular joint disorders, or TMD.

Chronic TMD represents a major clinical problem in our society, and empirical treatments offer uncertain relief for a large number of patients. In this five-year project, the DaSilva team will investigate and modulate μ-opioid receptor mechanisms mediating individual experiences in acute and chronic TMD pain using advanced positron emission tomography and neuromodulation protocols.  The study was motivated by publications from DaSilva’s lab showing that non-invasive brain stimulation methods developed by the team and collaborators provide significant pain relief in multiple chronic pain disorders, including chronic migraine, cancer pain and fibromyalgia.

In chronic TMD patients, the methods precisely reduced the pain area and intensity associated with the cortical side that was targeted during a one-week trial. Even one month after the trial, patients still experienced more than 50 percent of pain intensity relief compared to the placebo group.

This preliminary TMD study was part of Dr. Adam Donnell’s thesis for his Master’s in Orthodontics at the U-M School of Dentistry in 2015. DaSilva indicates that the chronic pain in TMD patients and the analgesic outcome from the lab’s novel montage, using high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation, are probably related in great part to changes in the activation of endogenous μ-opioids.

DaSilva says that this NIDCR project, using a U01 cooperative agreement mechanism, has the potential to change the paradigm in TMD research because it directly investigates and modulates in vivo one of the most important endogenous analgesic mechanisms in the brain. 


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:
Sharon Grayden, Communications Director, at (734) 615-2600,, or Lynn Monson, Writer, at (734) 615-1971.