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Papers of the Week

Papers: 8 Feb 2020 - 14 Feb 2020




Objective Pain Assessment: a Key for the Management of Chronic Pain.


The individual and social burdens associated with chronic pain have been escalating globally. Accurate pain measurement facilitates early diagnosis, disease progression monitoring and therapeutic efficacy evaluation, thus is a key for the management of chronic pain. Although the "golden standards" of pain measurement are self-reported scales in clinical practice, the reliability of these subjective methods could be easily affected by patients' physiological and psychological status, as well as the assessors' predispositions. Therefore, objective pain assessment has attracted substantial attention recently. Previous studies of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed that certain cortices and subcortical areas are commonly activated in subjects suffering from pain. Dynamic pain connectome analysis also found various alterations of neural network connectivity that are correlated with the severity of clinical pain symptoms. Electroencephalograph (EEG) demonstrated suppressed spontaneous oscillations during pain experience. Spectral power and coherence analysis of EEG also identified signatures of different types of chronic pain. Furthermore, fMRI and EEG can visualize objective brain activities modulated by analgesics in a mechanism-based way, thus bridge the gaps between animal studies and clinical trials. Using fMRI and EEG, researchers are able to predict therapeutic efficacy and identify personalized optimal first-line regimens. In the future, the emergence of magnetic resonance spectroscopy and cell labelling in MRI would encourage the investigation on metabolic and cellular pain biomarkers. The incorporation of machine learning algorithms with neuroimaging or behavior analysis could further enhance the specificity and accuracy of objective pain assessments.