A baby’s pain registers in the brain | Science News

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A baby’s pain registers in the brain

Monitor picks up spikes in nerve cell activity after a jab or a stick

By
2:00pm, May 3, 2017
newborn baby wearing electrodes

A GAIN ON PAIN  During painful procedures, newborns’ brains show a spike in activity that can be detected with electrodes on the scalp, a new study suggests. Monitoring such activity could one day provide an objective measurement of pain.

An electrode on top of a newborn’s scalp, near the soft spot, can measure when the baby feels pain. The method, described online May 3 in Science Translational Medicine, isn’t foolproof, but it brings scientists closer to being able to tell when infants are in distress.

Pain assessment in babies is both difficult and extremely important for the same reason: Babies don’t talk. That makes it hard to tell when they are in pain, and it also means that their pain can be more easily overlooked, says Carlo Bellieni, a pediatric pain researcher at the University Hospital Siena in Italy.

Doctors rely on a combination of clues such as crying, wiggling and facial grimacing to guess whether a baby is hurting. But these clues can mislead. “Similar behaviors occur when infants are not in pain, for example if they are hungry or want a cuddle,” says study coauthor

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