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Software in development to detect / monitor infant pain

Darren Murph

Sure, we've got plenty of ways to inflict pain, but aside from obvious signs conveyed through body language, how can we be sure someone is actually hurting? In the case of infants, their facial expressions cannot be trusted to determine whether he / she is really aching, as hunger and desire for attention can yield very similar (and equally misleading) faces. Sheryl Brahnam, an information scientist at Missouri State University at Springfield, is currently developing software that has proven "90 percent accurate" thus far in truthfully differentiating between honest distress and false alarms. Brahnam's system, dubbed the Classification of Pain Expressions (COPE), analyzes facial signals such as "how scrunched up the eyes are, the angle of the mouth, and the furrow of the brow" to determine root causes. The system relies on a "neural-network learning algorithm" that has been trained on a database of 204 photographic images of 26 different infants taken during a "standard heel prick," which is widely known to aggrieve infants. Brahnam admits the software has "a ways to go" before ready for clinical use, but the ability to accurately detect pain could lead to quicker diagnostics in infantile issues, and probably keep clueless parents of whiny babies a tad more informed sane.

[Via MedGadget]

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