How do scientists measure pain

Measure pain objectively

In order to be able to accurately assess the pain of our fellow human beings, we would literally have to be in their skin. Because pain is a subjective perception. Pain can only be measured objectively with the help of artificial intelligence.

"How bad is your pain?" - Doctors rely on the statements of their patients when it comes to pain therapy. In doing so, they repeatedly encounter language barriers. “Children, for example, often cannot describe pain precisely. Patients with dementia or other cognitive impairments also have problems providing information about the intensity and quality of pain, ”reports Prof. Harald C. Traue, Head of Medical Psychology at Ulm University Hospital.

Researchers measure pain with the help of artificial intelligence

Prof. Traue's team succeeded for the first time in objectively measuring pain. In an experimental pain study, they treated almost 100 volunteer test persons to four differently strong heat stimuli on their forearms. They adjusted the intensity of the stimuli to the individual pain threshold of the participants. During the experiment, they recorded a wide variety of body reactions. "The most informative in terms of pain intensity were the facial EMG, the electrical skin resistance, the distance between the eyebrow and the corner of the mouth and the wrinkles at the root of the nose," explain the study authors.

Above all, machines recognize severe pain

The scientists evaluated the immense amount of data with high-performance computers. The researchers were most successful when they trained the computers on the individual pain reactions of the individual test subjects. Then they achieved an accuracy of 94 percent for severe and 59 percent for mild pain. The impersonal measurement method achieved an accuracy of 74 to 91 percent in severe pain. With weak ones it was too imprecise.

Source: Ulm University

Authors

07.03.2017 | Susanne Schmid