Researchers at Stanford University have invented a pain detector. They can now tell if someone is in pain using brain scans and that means they don't have to rely on the patient telling them they're in pain. They say it's especially helpful for people who are unable to communicate, like infants, dementia patients, or people in comas. It's the first time in history this has been achieved and it came about through an experiment that I'm glad I didn't have the opportunity to volunteer for.
For the study, Mackey's team used a linear support vector machine -- a computer algorithm invented in 1995 -- to classify patterns of brain activity and determine whether or not someone is experiencing pain.
To train the computer, eight volunteers underwent brain scans while they were touched first by an object that was hot, and then by one that was so hot it was painful.
The computer used data from these scans to recognize different brain activity patterns that occur when a person is detecting heat, and which ones detect pain.
In tests the computer was more than 80 percent accurate in detecting which brain scans were of people in pain, and it was just as accurate at ruling out those who were not in pain.