Why was the study done?
A one-size-fits-all approach to pain management does not work for all people with chronic pain because of differences in the brain that can cause individual differences in pain sensitivities and coping, and determine whether we respond to various treatments.
This study was done to investigate individual brain differences related to pain and how they may predict treatment response. An understanding of these linkages will help to develop a personalized and more effective approach to pain management. A second part of the study sought to understand the opinions of people with pain regarding the use of new brain imaging technologies to diagnose and guide pain treatment. This neuroethics study examined issues of data privacy, objective vs self report measures of pain, to establish a framework for neuroethics, legal and societal challenges related to brain imaging/function and possible of the self-report of pain.
How was the study done?
The study measured many aspects of pain sensitivity as well as brain activity in people who are healthy (as a control measure) and in people with different types of chronic pain. Data was also collected from people undergoing treatment for chronic pain to identify links between how well the treatment alleviated pain and the brain and pain sensitivity measures.
For the neuroethics study, a survey is being used to determine the opinions of key stakeholders (people with pain, the general public, healthcare providers) in adopting a brain-based “painometer” test.
What were the study results?
Although the study is not yet complete, early findings indicate that there are several abnormalities in brain function and pain sensitivity measures that are commonly found in people with chronic pain. Some of these abnormalities are related to the type and severity of pain, some are related to whether a treatment will be effective, and some normalize after an effective pain treatment. Individual factors are also emerging including sex differences in brain circuitry.