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To help doctors and patients, UB researchers are developing a 'vocabulary of pain'
Date:7/26/2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- All over the world, patients with chronic pain struggle to express how they feel to the doctors and health-care providers who are trying to understand and treat them. Now, a University at Buffalo psychiatrist is attempting to help patients suffering from chronic pain and their doctors by drawing on ontology, the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of being or existence. The research will be discussed during a tutorial he will give at the International Conference on Biomedical Ontology (http://icbo.buffalo.edu/), sponsored by UB, that will be held in Buffalo July 26-30.

He describes the goals of his work in a video interview: http://bit.ly/o7WMld

"Pain research is very difficult because nothing allows the physician to see the patient's pain directly," says Werner Ceusters, MD, professor of psychiatry in UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and principal investigator on a new National Institutes of Health grant, An Ontology for Pain and Related Disability, Mental Health and Quality of Life.

"The patient has to describe what he or she is feeling."

That is a serious shortcoming, Ceusters says, because each patient's subjective experience of pain is different. Descriptions of pain therefore lack the precision and specificity that is taken for granted with other disorders, where biomarkers or physiological indicators reveal what health-care providers need in order to assess the severity of a particular disorder.

"If we want to more effectively help people suffering from chronic pain, we need to study a population that is consistent, patients who have features in common," Ceusters says. "The problem with pain is, it's very hard to build up a group with the same sort of pain. People don't have the same vocabulary or linguistic capabilities or even the same cultural backgrounds. It's something pain researchers have struggled with
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Contact: Ellen Goldbaum
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
716-645-4605
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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