New Brain Scan Quantifies The Formerly Subjective Feeling of Pain

Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 13:00 in Health & Medicine

The seemingly subjective nature of pain always proves problematic for doctors, who have to use a woefully imprecise chart to gauge a patient's suffering. But by using a new interpretation of fMRI scans, doctors at the University of Oxford have found a way to measure the brain's pain response in a quantitative way. Aside from providing a more precise tool for doctors, this technology may also enable doctors to measure pain in people with locked-in syndrome, people in vegetative states, pre-verbal children, animals, and fetuses. The doctors monitored the brains of 16 men after they had their wisdom teeth removed. In the study, the intensity of brain activity in certain regions correlated directly with the intensity of pain reported by the men. In other experiments, the researchers pricked the fingers of volunteers with a needle, or had them touch a hot plate, while measuring brain activity. However, some critics believe that...

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