Doctors Use Brain Scans to 'See' Pain
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Scientists reported Wednesday they were able to "see" pain on brain scans and, for the first time, measure its intensity and tell if a drug was relieving it. The research is in its early stages, but it opens the door to a host of possibilities. (April 10)

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SHOTLIST:AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLYFILE VIDEO1. Tight shot of woman at doctor's office getting temperature taken2. Medium shot of woman at doctor's office getting temperature taken3. Woman pushing wheelchair at doctor's office4. Pan up of doctor's office table with wheelchair next to itAP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLYBoulder, Colo., April 10, 20135. Medium shot of Tor Wager, associated professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 6. Medium of brain scan on Wager's computer. 7. SOUNDBITE (English) Tor Wager, associated professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder: "It's the first time we've been able to find a signature that's specific to physical pain, that doesn't respond to emotional distress or social pain.''AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLYFILE VIDEO8. Various man about to get brain scanUNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, BOULDER - MUST COURTESY9. Graphic of brain scanAP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLYBoulder, Colo., April 10, 201310. SOUNDBITE (English) Tor Wager, associated professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder: "But it's the first time that we've been able to observe a signature pattern that works reliably across individuals. So we can test a new individual and expect to make an accurate prediction."AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLYFILE VIDEO11. Various of pills on tray12. Pan of scan machine to researchers behind computer screens13. Tight shot computer screen showing brain scan14. Tight shot researcher's face15. Various of researchers behind computer screensAP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLYBoulder, Colo., April 10, 201316. SOUNDBITE (English) Tor Wager, associated professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder: "We can start to test different kinds of treatments and ask, `Well which kind of treatments _ drugs, meditation, cognitive therapy, distraction, the various kinds?' All of these things have been shown to reduce the pain that people report feeling."17 Medium of computer screen showing brain scans18.Tight of computer screen showing brain scan19. Medium of MRI scanner at the school's Center for Innovation and Creativity.20. Tight of MRI scanner21. Tight shot computer screen showing brain scans VOICE-OVER SCRIPT:HEADED TO THE DOCTOR FOR A HEADACHE ... A SPRAIN ... OR EVEN SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION?PAIN IS THE TOP REASON PEOPLE SEE THEIR M-D.BUT NOW RESEARCHERS HAVE DISCOVERED BRAIN SCAN PATTERNS THAT LET THEM ACTUALLY **SEE** PAIN ....[Notes:SOUNDBITE (English) Tor Wager, associated professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder: "It's the first time we've been able to find a signature that's specific to physical pain, that doesn't respond to emotional distress or social pain.'']THE WORK STILL NEEDS MUCH MORE TESTING BUT ALREADY HAS ENORMOUS POSSIBILITIES...FOR EXAMPLE... THE SCANS COULD REVEAL HOW MUCH PAIN AN UNCONSCIOUS PERSON .. SOMEONE WITH DEMENTIA ... OR EVEN A BABY ... HAS.ANYONE WHO CAN'T TELL YOU WHEN THEY HURT. [Notes:SOUNDBITE (English) Tor Wager, associated professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder: "It's the first time that we've been able to observe a signature pattern that works reliably across individuals. So we can test a new individual and expect to make an accurate prediction."]THE RESEARCH MIGHT ALSO SOMEDAY LEAD TO BETTER DRUGS...AND ONES THAT ARE LESS ADDICTIVE. BY REVEALING EXACTLY **HOW BAD** THE PAIN IS.[Notes:SOUNDBITE (English) Tor Wager, associated professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder: "We can start to test different kinds of treatments and ask, `Well which kind of treatments _ drugs, meditation, cognitive therapy, distraction, the various kinds?' All of these things have been shown to reduce the pain that people report feeling."]EXPERTS SAY THEY'RE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE NEW STUDY... AND A WAY TO OBJECTIVELY MEASURE WHAT IS NOW A VERY SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE.NICOLE GRETHER -- THE ASSOCIATED PRESSSTORYLINEIn a provocative new study, scientists reported Wednesday that they were able to "see" pain on brain scans and, for the first time, measure its intensity and tell whether a drug was relieving it. Though the research is in its early stages, it opens the door to a host of possibilities.Scans might be used someday to tell when pain is hurting a baby, someone with dementia or a paralyzed person unable to talk. They might lead to new, less addictive pain medicines. They might even help verify claims for disability. "Many people suffer from chronic pain and they're not always believed. We see this as a way to confirm or corroborate pain if there is a doubt," said Tor Wager, a neuroscientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He led the research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. So far it is only on pain felt through the skin _ heat applied to an arm. More study needs to be done on more common kinds of pain, such as headaches, bad backs and pain from disease.Independent experts say the research shows a way to measure objectively what is now one of life's most subjective experiences. Pain is the top reason people see a doctor, and there's no way to quantify how bad it is other than what they say. A big quest in neuroscience is to find tests or scans that can help diagnose ailments with mental and physical components such as pain, depression and PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.Although many studies have found brain areas that light up when pain is present, the new work is the first to develop a combined signature from all these signals that can be used to measure pain.The research involved four experiments at Columbia University approved by a panel to ensure no participants were harmed. In all, 114 healthy volunteers were paid $50 to $200 to be tested with a heating element placed against a forearm at various temperatures, not severe enough to cause burns or lasting damage. Some of the experiments required them to stand it for 10 to 20 seconds. "We can start to test different kinds of treatments and ask, `Well which kind of treatments _ drugs, meditation, cognitive therapy, distraction, the various kinds?' All of these things have been shown to reduce the pain that people report feeling." Wager said.Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI scans, which don't require radiation as X-rays do, recorded changes in brain activity as measured by blood flow. Computers were used to generate signatures or patterns from these readings.The first set of experiments on 20 people developed signatures for pain versus the anticipation of it or mild warmth on the arm. The second experiment validated these signatures in 33 other people and found they predicted how much pain they said they felt. Researchers took their work a step further with the third experiment, which involved 40 people who recently lost a serious love relationship and were feeling intensely rejected. Besides the heat tests, they had scans while being shown a picture of their former partners and then a picture of a good friend. Researchers found the brain signatures for social or emotional pain were different from the ones for physical pain. In the fourth experiment, researchers gave 21 participants two infusions of a morphine-like drug while they were being scanned and having the heat tests. The first time, they knew they were getting the drug. The second time they were told they were getting dummy infusions but in fact got the drug again. Brain signatures showed their pain was being relieved both times in proportion to how much drug was in their systems.--------------------------------------------------------------------