Published April 14, 2022
ABMR is an honorary senior scientist society for those whose research exists at the interface of behavior and medicine. Election is reserved for those with national and international behavioral medicine research excellence.
“The honor means that the work my team and I perform is cutting-edge research whose sustained impact has enriched our understanding of the interface of medicine and behavior,” Lackner says.
Much of Lackner’s research has explored irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a painful gastrointestinal disorder that is often poorly understood and treated unsatisfactorily with medications, diet changes, etc.
“We are interested in how behavioral factors affect patients’ relationships, their mindset, lifestyle choices, coping style, comorbid health problems, and particularly, the way they process information — disrupt brain-gut interactions,” Lackner says. “We know that when these factors disrupt how the brain and gut communicate with one another, symptoms flare up in all of us, but the response is greater and more sustained in people with IBS.”
“We have shown that ultra-brief behavioral treatments developed and validated here at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences can effectively normalize brain-gut interactions in a way that relieves symptoms often more dramatically than with medications whose relief can be short-lived, expensive and often come with side effects,” he adds.
Lackner has received funding for his research from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health for more than two decades. His research has been distinguished by creativity, impact and boundary-breaking scientific discovery.
“Our research has had a major impact on clinical practice across the world. Like many pain conditions, IBS used to be seen as a psychosomatic condition. If diagnostic testing like a colonoscopy did not reveal positive findings, patients’ physical symptoms were dismissed as a personal weakness or emotional problem,“ Lackner says.
”Focusing solely on purely biological drivers increases the personal and economic costs of pain conditions like IBS,” he adds.
“We have shown that IBS is no different than other chronic health conditions whose trajectory is influenced by lifestyle factors. This trajectory, however steep, can be reversed by adopting a broader, biopsychosocial approach and targeting the actionable behavioral factors that keep symptoms going, leading to very real and sustained pain relief,“ Lackner says. “Our work has not only flushed out this approach, but the practical tools for how to reduce the cost and suffering that comes with refractory pain disorders like IBS.”
Lackner says these treatments are low intensity — that is, they require minimal clinician contact in an office setting — which means that they are more accessible to people beyond those who live in urban areas.
“I am proud that we have consistently hit the high notes over two decades and made very real differences in the lives of patients here in Western New York and across the world,” Lackner says. “Our work has helped fuel the popularity of developing low-intensity treatments including digital therapeutics, an exciting new frontier that brings relief to patients where they are not where the clinician practices.”
“Congratulations to Dr. Lackner, who has been a pioneer in chronic pain research for more than two decades. The patient-centered treatments he has developed have helped improve the lives of countless patients dealing with these debilitating pain conditions,” says Allison Brashear, MD, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School.
Lackner will be honored during the ABMR’s annual meeting June 26-30 in Woodstock, Vermont.