Through the use of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner, researchers at the University of Oxford have discovered that babies' brains react similarly to adult brains when exposed to the same degree of pain.
These findings could potentially alter current guidelines dealing with infants and pain management during painful procedures. "As recently as the 1980s, it was common practice for babies to be given neuromuscular blocks but no pain relief medication during surgery," reports Science Daily.
As of now, this is a small-scale study; in total, researchers have only examined 20 healthy individuals: 10 infants between one and six days old, and 10 adults between 23- and 36-years-old. Of the 20 brain regions that are active when adults experience pain, 18 were also active in babies (see the MRI image here).
In fact, scans showed that babies' brains that were given a weak "poke" had the same response as adults who were given a "poke" that was four times as strong. This suggests that babies are not only feeling pain, but they also have a significantly lower tolerance for the feeling. Of course, further research will be needed to draw a better conclusion.
However, because babies are unable to verbalize when and how badly they experience pain, this information is especially important in establishing the best ways to deal with pain relief in the future.
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Image: Doctors examining brain scans via Shutterstock