AI has taught people how to treat chronic pain

Scientists from the ATR Brain Information Research Laboratory (Japan, USA) have developed a new method to control chronic pain. The innovative technology is based on the principles of neurofeedback: neural networks analyze the nature of pain during the brain-scanning. Based on this information, artificial intelligence offers strategies to cope with the pain. 

The approach is called DecNef (Decoded neurofeedback). Patients have access to decrypting (decoding) the processes that occur in the brain. This is helped by functional neuroimaging (e.g. MRI scanning of the brain), which helps to understand the principles of neurofeedback of various processes, including feelings of chronic pain. 

In an experiment, volunteers placed in MRI were asked to focus on the pain they were experiencing and try to characterize it. At the same time, the neural networks analyzed the activity of different parts of the brain, creating a digital algorithm of the discomfort. Initially, the goal was to teach AI to recognize and analyze pain so that the algorithm could later propose strategies to combat it. 

However, in the process of research scientists found that DecNef helps to achieve another effect - to use their own pain management resources. It turned out that it is quite difficult to control pain "directly" to a person. At the same time, interaction with artificial intelligence helped patients to actively use the "endogenous pain management system". 

The endogenous system of pain control and regulation (antinociceptive system) is a complex structure located at different levels of the central nervous system and having their own neurochemical mechanisms. As chemical regulators, the system uses mainly serotonin and opioid neuropeptides. Studies show that this system helps to effectively manage acute and episodic pain. However, in chronic pain, its performance is impaired, resulting in pain sensitivity management mechanisms. Artificial intelligence used in DecNef technology helps to improve or restore the functioning of the antinociceptive system, which allows a person to regain control over his or her painful sensations.

Aug. 14, 2020, 10:02 a.m.

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