Prasad Shirvalkar receives funding from the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative and HEAL Initiative, UCSF Weill Neurosciences Institute, and the George and Judy Marcus Fund. He is leading clinical trials for which Medtronic Inc. has donated devices but no direct funding.
Using a brain implant that can record neural signals over many months, my research team and I have discovered objective biomarkers of chronic pain severity in four patients with chronic pain as they went about their daily lives.
Pain is one of the most important and basic subjective experiences a person can have. While there is plenty of evidence that perception of pain takes place in the brain, there is also a major knowledge gap regarding where and how pain signals are processed in the brain. Even though pain is universal, there has not been a way to objectively measure its intensity.
Most prior studies on the brain signals responsible for pain have relied on laboratory experiments in artificial environments. Until now, most research on chronic pain has used indirect measures of brain activity such as functional magnetic resonance imaging or electroencephalography. Furthermore, although doctors widely recognize that chronic pain is not just an extension of acute pain – like stubbing your toe – it remains unknown how the brain circuits behind acute and chronic pain relate to each other.