Washington: Scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine claim to have taken the first step towards developing a diagnostic tool which could measure the presence or absence of pain.
The new tool would use patterns of brain activity to give an objective physiologic assessment of whether someone is in pain, say the scientists who used functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain combined with advanced computer algorithms to accurately predict thermal pain 81 percent of the time in healthy subjects.
"People have been looking for a pain detector for a very long time.
We`re hopeful we can eventually use this technology for better detection and better treatment of chronic pain," said Sean Mackey, the lead scientist.
The scientists stressed that future studies are needed to determine whether these methods will work to measure various kinds of pain, such as chronic pain, and whether they can distinguish accurately between pain and other emotionally arousing states, such as anxiety or depression.
"A key thing to remember is that this approach objectively measured thermal pain in a controlled lab setting.
We should take care not to extrapolate these findings to say we can measure and detect pain in all circumstances," Mackey said wrote in the `PLoS ONE` journal.