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Browsing by Subject "pain"

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  • Blom, Sonja (2022)
    Pain is a subjective feeling often difficult to interpret or study and thus, pain of those unable to communicate their pain is difficult to recognize. According to the new definition of pain by IASP (Raja et al 2020), verbal description is only one of the many behaviours that can be used to express pain, and the inability to communicate pain does not negate the possibility of experiencing it. This addition to the definition points out that non-human animals, too, even if they cannot express it in words, are capable of both experiencing and communicating pain. Can we as humans interpret a state of pain in an animal in a trustworthy way – and in a manner that would be respectful and non-invasive to the animal? Infrared thermography (IRT) is a technology based on using infrared radiation instead of normal light to form images. These images can be used to quantify the surface temperature of an object with high resolution. The intensity of the radiation emitted by the object being imaged depends on the surface temperature and for this reason thermal imaging enables detecting and measuring changes of surface temperature. Pain and stress might manifest physiologically as activation of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn might result in changes in surface temperatures of the body. These changes might be detectable with a thermal camera. If we could establish a link between certain intricate temperature changes of the head area to certain type of activation of the sympathetic nervous system resulting from pain, thermal imaging could have the potential to detect this. In this study I investigated if there were detectable temperature changes in animal patients before and after a standard examination conducted to each patient admitted to the Wildlife Hospital of Helsinki Zoo, where my data was gathered. Another question was whether the patients that had pain differed in their temperature changes as compared to other patients. The question at the heart of my research was whether there would be a change in peripheral facial temperatures of patients before and after the examination. Another question was whether thermal patterns would be different for pain- and non-pain patients. I found that for some parameters, the temperature differences between pain- and non-pain patients were indeed different, for example the crown temperature of birds seemed to change with examination for patients without pain but not for patients with pain. A more prominent finding was that temperatures decrease across many parameters after an examination as compared to prior to it, across all or many patient groups. My research does not univocally show that thermal imaging could be used to detect pain; rather it affirms the thought that the measurement of changes in peripheral temperatures could be a potential window to non-invasively detect some changes of activation of the sympathetic nervous system in animals.