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Chronic pain can be objectively measured using brain signals – new study

chronic pain
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Using a brain implant that records neural signals For several months, my research team and I have discovered objective biomarkers of chronic pain severity in the daily lives of four chronic pain patients.

Pain is one of the most important and fundamental subjective experiences a person can have. While there is substantial evidence that the brain’s perception of pain occurs, there are large gaps in knowledge about where and how pain signals are processed in the brain. Although pain is ubiquitous, there is no single way to objectively measure its intensity.

Most previous studies of the brain signals responsible for pain have relied on laboratory experiments in artificial settings. So far, most studies of chronic pain have used indirect methods of measuring brain activity, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging or electroencephalography. Moreover, while doctors generally recognize that chronic pain is more than just an extension of acute pain — like stepping on your toe — it remains unclear how the brain circuits underlying acute and chronic pain relate to each other.

Our study was part of a larger clinical trial to develop a New Brain Stimulation Therapy to Treat Severe Chronic Pain. My team surgically implanted electrodes into the brains of four patients with post-stroke pain and phantom limb pain to record from their orbitofrontal cortex (the area of ​​the brain associated with planning and expectation) and cingulate cortex ( Neural signals in areas associated with emotion).

We asked the patient about pain severity multiple times a day for up to six months. We then built machine learning models that attempted to match and predict each patient’s self-reported pain intensity score with a snapshot of their brain activity signature. These brain signals consist of electrical waves that can be broken down into different frequencies, similar to how musical chords are broken down into individual sounds of different pitches. From these models, we found that low frequencies in the orbitofrontal cortex corresponded to each patient’s subjective pain intensity, thereby providing an objective measure of chronic pain. The greater the change in low-frequency activity we measured, the more likely the patient was experiencing severe pain.

Further information: Prasad Shirvalkar et al., First use of intracranial neural biomarkers to predict chronic pain status in humans, Nature Neuroscience (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41593-023-01338-z

This This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original text.

QuoteThe Conversation: Chronic Pain Can Be Objectively Measured Using Brain Signals – New Study (2023, May 27) Retrieved June 14, 2023 from https://medicalxpress. com/news/2023-05-chronic-pain-brain-signalsnew.html

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