Using fMRI to detect pain


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Rennett Stowe via photopincc

Until recently, the only real way for doctors to know whether or how much pain patients were experiencing was to ask them. However, researchers may have found an objective way to detect pain and its intensity using an fMRI.

Most people are familiar with MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), which, similar to an X-Ray, images the internal features of the body. MRI, X-Ray, and CT Scans are examples of “structural” imaging. An fMRI, however, is a “functional” imaging device that, among other things, detects changes in blood flow in the brain. These changes are believed to correlate with increased activity in that area of the brain.

Scientists studying fMRI as a potential means of objectively measuring pain found that an fMRI consistently detected certain areas of the brain that “lit up” when a healthy person experienced a pain stimulus. This could to be the first major step in eventually using fMRI in a clinical setting to assess a patient’s pain.

You can find the study here: