Over 23 million surgeries are performed each year in the United States. Currently there are no objective measures for pain during surgery. Over the past few years we have developed the use of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to provide an objective measure of pain sensation. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) systems are simple and portable, and easily applicable in the operating room, enabling the physician to measure activity in specific brain regions involved in the sensation of pain (primary somatosensory cortex, SI) or motor planning/escape (supplementary motor cortex, SMA). We have identified a specific pain signal from the supplementary motor and prefrontal cortices. We now propose to advance the NIRS technology to make the measure of this pain biomarker more robust for the clinical environment, validate the measure in controlled clinically relevant conditions, and then demonstrate clinical utility for monitoring pain sensation in an operating room environment. Our hypothesis is that objective measures by NIRS during anesthesia of neural activity in the primary somatosensory and prefrontal cortices in response to an intermittent pain stimulus will reflect the effectiveness of analgesic blockade while under anesthesia.
Three specific aims have been generated to test this hypothesis: (1) To advance NIRS technology for the operating room environment by advancing signal processing to filter systemic interference and dynamically estimate the pain biomarker;(2) To validate objective measure of pain by evaluating analgesic effects of an opioid (morphine) in healthy men and women;and to test for pain measures under sedation in otherwise healthy men and women undergoing colonoscopy;and (3) To translate these measures to patients undergoing inhalational anesthesia or total intravenous anesthesia. Successful completion of the aims will lead towards a new tool for the anesthesiologist to optimize management of the patient to reduce the incidence of peri-operative pain-related sequelae. We have put together an interdisciplinary team (NIRS specialists and pain specialists and physicians) to undertake and complete the proposed studies.

Public Health Relevance

Near infrared spectroscopy has the potential to provide a novel measure of pain sensation. By directly measuring the brain's response to painful stimuli. NIRS is portable and can thus be used in the operating room to provide an objective measure of pain sensation and enable the anesthesiologist to optimize pain management. As a result, NIRS can potentially reduce the significant number of patients who suffer acute pain during surgery and may subsequently suffer from chronic pain and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Biomedical Imaging Technology Study Section (BMIT)
Program Officer
Cole, Alison E
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Massachusetts General Hospital
United States
Zip Code
Peng, Ke; Yücel, Meryem A; Steele, Sarah C et al. (2018) Morphine Attenuates fNIRS Signal Associated With Painful Stimuli in the Medial Frontopolar Cortex (medial BA 10). Front Hum Neurosci 12:394
Peng, Ke; Steele, Sarah C; Becerra, Lino et al. (2018) Brodmann area 10: Collating, integrating and high level processing of nociception and pain. Prog Neurobiol 161:1-22
Peng, Ke; Yücel, Meryem A; Aasted, Christopher M et al. (2018) Using prerecorded hemodynamic response functions in detecting prefrontal pain response: a functional near-infrared spectroscopy study. Neurophotonics 5:011018
Yücel, Meryem A; Selb, Juliette J; Huppert, Theodore J et al. (2017) Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy: Enabling Routine Functional Brain Imaging. Curr Opin Biomed Eng 4:78-86
Aasted, Christopher M; Yücel, Meryem A; Steele, Sarah C et al. (2016) Frontal Lobe Hemodynamic Responses to Painful Stimulation: A Potential Brain Marker of Nociception. PLoS One 11:e0165226
Yücel, Meryem A; Selb, Juliette; Aasted, Christopher M et al. (2016) Mayer waves reduce the accuracy of estimated hemodynamic response functions in functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Biomed Opt Express 7:3078-88
Becerra, Lino; Aasted, Christopher M; Boas, David A et al. (2016) Brain measures of nociception using near-infrared spectroscopy in patients undergoing routine screening colonoscopy. Pain 157:840-848
Kussman, Barry D; Aasted, Christopher M; Yücel, Meryem A et al. (2016) Capturing Pain in the Cortex during General Anesthesia: Near Infrared Spectroscopy Measures in Patients Undergoing Catheter Ablation of Arrhythmias. PLoS One 11:e0158975
Aasted, Christopher M; Yücel, Meryem A; Cooper, Robert J et al. (2015) Anatomical guidance for functional near-infrared spectroscopy: AtlasViewer tutorial. Neurophotonics 2:020801
Yücel, Meryem A; Selb, Juliette; Aasted, Christopher M et al. (2015) Short separation regression improves statistical significance and better localizes the hemodynamic response obtained by near-infrared spectroscopy for tasks with differing autonomic responses. Neurophotonics 2:035005

Showing the most recent 10 out of 13 publications