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Generating new hope for people in pain and other sensory disorders

Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor Dr. Barry R. Komisaruk’s research is generating new hope for people in pain and other sensory disorders, while his mentoring of minority students is helping to develop creative professional scientists.

Komisaruk’s commitment to science education for students at all levels, combined with his distinguished research and publication record, has won the psychology professor numerous awards. These include grants totaling more than $12.2 million, being named a Rutgers Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor and a “Minority Access Role Model” by Minority Access, Inc., a Board of Trustees of Rutgers University Awardee for Excellence in Research, a Hugo Beigel Awardee for Research in human sexuality, and a Bullough Awardee for best book on human sexuality in 2006.

Komisaruk’s latest research is in the use of neurobiofeedback to alleviate pain from spinal cord injuries and to increase the activity of brain regions that he has found to be activated during pleasure, specifically during sexual response. His goal is to determine whether people with pathologies including spinal cord injury can use this type of biofeedback, seeing images of their own ongoing brain activity measured by fMRI, to voluntarily lessen the pain they are experiencing and to intensify their pleasure. This research involves mapping the brain response to sexual response and pain toward enabling women and men to learn how to control their brain activity to overcome pathologies in both these forms of sensation.

Komisaruk’s earlier, internationally publicized research provided experimental evidence that women with spinal cord injuries could still experience sexual feelings via an existing nerve pathway that bypasses the spinal cord and enters the brain directly. This finding was a by-product of his research into the sensory pathways of pain and the sensory stimuli and neurochemicals that block pain.

Komisaruk holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the City University of New York, a doctoral degree in psychobiology from Rutgers University, and a post doctoral degree in neuroendocrinology from the Brain Research Institute of UCLA. He joined the faculty at Rutgers-Newark in 1966 and is now Professor II in the Psychology Department and associate dean of the Graduate School.

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