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Feeling pain? The computer can tell

September 14, 2011 | Hogan Keyser
By Julie Steenhuysen
Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:35pm EDT - (Reuters) - Can a computer tell when it hurts? It can if you train it, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

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A team at Stanford University in California used computer learning software to sort through data generated by brain scans and detect when people were in pain.

"The question we were trying to answer was can we use neuroimaging to objectively detect whether a person is in a state of pain or not. The answer was yes," Dr. Sean Mackey of the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, whose study appears in the journal PLoS One.

Currently, doctors rely on patients to tell them whether or not they are in pain. And that is still the gold standard for assessing pain, Mackey said.

But some patients -- the very young, the very old, dementia patients or those who are not conscious -- cannot say if they are hurting, and that has led to a long search for some way to objectively measure pain.

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