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Reading Infant Pain

May 4, 2017

Scientists measure babies’ pain via their brains.

Transcript

110304-N-7491B-024 SAN DIEGO (March 4, 2011) Lt. Lauren Mattingly, an intern in the Naval Medical Center San Diego Graduate Medical Education program, examines a newborn baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The graduate program trains doctors in the development of clinical and professional skills. The hospital has 24 accredited programs such as obstetrics gynecology, internal medicine and orthopedics. More than 70 interns are enrolled in the 2011 Graduate Medical Education program. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph A. Boomhower/Released)

An intern at the Naval Medical Center San Diego Graduate Medical Education program examines a newborn baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph A. Boomhower/Released)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Reading infants’ pain. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the past, doctors thought infants’ nervous systems were too immature to feel pain. Today, that view has changed. But despite caregivers’ best efforts, babies’ pain still goes undertreated because they don’t have the words to tell us they’re hurting. Now, researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that they’ve detected specific patterns of brain activity in babies undergoing routine, but painful medical procedures.

REBECCAH SLATER (University of Oxford):

And we don’t see these patterns in response to other equally arousing sensory stimulation, such a flash of light or a sound.

HIRSHON:

But according to Oxford perinatal neuroscientist Rebeccah Slater, applying topical anasthetics to site of the pain decreased the pain-related brain activity. She says the  technique could be used to improve both detection and treatment of infants’ pain.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard