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Technology allows physicians to experience pain in real-time

Researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) have developed technology that will help doctors see and map patient's pain in real-time using special glasses for expanded reality.

CLARA's Portable Platform (Extended Clinical Reality and Artificial Intelligence) combines visualization with brain data using neuroimaging to navigate through the brain of a patient while on a chair, a statement released on the UM website on Thursday.

In the study, researchers activated pain by applying cold to the teeth and then used brain pain data to develop algorithms that, in combination with new software and hardware for neuroimaging, predicted pain or absence of pain, about 70% of the time.

The participants were wearing a cap equipped with a sensor that detected changes in blood flow and oxygenation, which measured brain activity and pain reactions. This information was transferred to the computer and interpreted.

With special eye-glasses for expanded reality, researchers in real-time reconstructed brain samples watched the subject's cerebral activity while the subjects were sitting in a clinical chair. The red and blue dots in the picture point to the location and level of brain activity, and this "pain signature" is shown as a mirror on the extended reality screen. The better the signatures learn to read the algorithm, the more accurate the pain will be.

"It is very difficult to measure and express our pain, including her expectation and related anxiety," said Alex DaSilva, associate professor at UM Dental School and director of the Orofacial Labor and Headache Laboratory. "We currently have a one to ten rating system, but it is far from objective and reliable measurement of pain."

The technology was tested in 21 volunteer dental patients. There are years to be used for wide application in the clinical setting, but feasibility study is a good first step for dental patients, DaSilva said.

The study was published in Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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