Scientists said Wednesday they have figured out how to recognize pain in brain scans, possibly paving the way for future tests that could accurately gauge its severity.
“Right now, there’s no clinically acceptable way to measure pain and other emotions other than to ask a person how they feel,” said Tor Wager, lead author of the paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
For the study, magnetic resonance imaging brain scans were performed on 114 volunteers as heat was applied to the left forearm, ranging from warm to hot.
Researchers thought they would find a unique pain signature in each individual, since pain is measured differently among people and some are more sensitive than others.
However, they were surprised to find that the signals they found in the brain were transferable across different people, allowing scientists to predict how much pain a person was feeling with 90-100 percent accuracy.