The researchers at Stanford University in California are trying to develop a diagnostic tool that can measure the presence or absence of pain in humans.
The new tool would use patterns of brain activity derived from the scans to give an objective physiologic assessment of whether someone is in pain. People have been looking for a pain detector for a very long time, said Sean Mackey, the main author of the study.
He said, “We’re hopeful we can eventually use this technology for better detection and better treatment of chronic pain.”
According to the report published in Public Library of Science (PLoS) journal, the team of researchers used a linear support vector machine, a computer algorithm to determine whether or not someone is experiencing pain.
Until today, the doctors give treatment relying on patients to tell them when they are in pain, and the diagnosis is only based on what the patient's saying.
The research is based on the initiative to develop a diagnostic software to measure the pain which will benefit numerous patients, even the ones who are either too young, aged, others who are unconscious and are not in the condition to express the situation and degree of their pain.
The computer used data from the brain scans of some people to study different brain activity pattern, when a heat probe was applied to their forearms, causing moderate pain.
“We asked the computer to come up with what it thinks pain looks like,” said Neil Chatterjee, the co-author of the study. He said the computer was 81 percent successful in detecting if the person was in pain or not. The experiment went “amazingly well,” he added.
However, Mackey said that the study was done in a controlled environment and it detected the pain but could not measure the degree of the pain.
If the study released by the Institute of Medicine in June is to be believed, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and the treatment costs nearly $600 million every year.
This new development in the medical technology can prove to be a boon for patients and the pain experts, helping them to diagnose more accurately and effectively. Moreover, the development of a diagnostic software that can measure the degree of the pain, could be an added delight for them in future.