Sunday, November 18, 2007

Study: Brain waves reveal pain intensity

OXFORD, England, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- British researchers said they found a signal from the brain that correlates with the amount of pain a person feels, Nature reported Wednesday.

The signal could be used to refine pain relief techniques that involve using electricity to stimulate the brain, the researchers said.

While single sells have been shown to signal the presence or absence of pain, Morten Kringelbach and his team at University of Oxford identified low-frequency brain waves emanating from two regions deep within the brain when a patient is in pain. The more pain experienced, the longer the waves last, the researchers said.

"It is an objective measure that correlates with a subjective measure," Kringelbach said.

This signal could help refine deep-brain stimulations for patients of chronic pain, he said.

"We could have a stimulator that picks up this neural signature of pain and only starts sending signals at that point," Kringelbach says.

The preliminary study didn't indicate whether the duration of the waves disappeared when painkillers, anesthetics or electrical stimulation are used, said Allan Basbaum, a neuroscientist at University of California-San Francisco.

"It would be great to have a 'signature of pain,'" Basbaum said.

Morten L. Kringelbach's scientific research and papers:

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