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Title: Cortical pain processing in the infant brain
Author: Slater, Rebeccah Louise Elizabeth Ann
ISNI:       0000 0001 3417 0196
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Premature infants are exposed to multiple invasive procedures as part of their essential medical care. It is not known, however, if nociceptive information is processed by the cortex at this age. The fundamental question to be addressed by this thesis is whether premature infants display cortical responses to noxious stimulation. This thesis describes a series of studies where the question of cortical pain processing is addressed by directly measuring cortical responses to noxious stimulation using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and electroencephalography (EEG). The NIRS results show that, following an acute noxious event, the contralateral somatosensory cortex is functionally activated in infants from 25 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA). Awake infants have a larger cortical response than asleep infants and, in the awake group, the size of the response increases with PMA. The magnitude of the haemodynamic response correlates with pain scores calculated using the premature infant pain profile (PIPP), although infants who do not display a change in facial expression can still process noxious stimuli at the cortical level. Latency to response is longest in the youngest infants using either the haemodynamic response or change in facial expression as an output measure. The underlying pain-related neuronal activity in the cortex has been investigated using EEG. Nociceptive-specific event related potentials have been observed in infants from 31-42 weeks PMA, with a recognisable N-P complex visible in the contralateral somatosensory cortex in 82% of studies. Noxious stimulation can evoke specific patterns of neural activity within the cortex of preterm and term infants that can be observed on a single-trial basis. The studies represent the first measurements of cortical activation in the immature preterm cortex following a noxious event. The fact that noxious information is transmitted to higher levels of the central nervous system highlights the importance of developing a systematic approach to reduce pain and improve analgesic strategies in this vulnerable population.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available