Pigs can feel pain.
But what if a pig could also feel pain?
That’s what a team of researchers from Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania has found.
The research team used an ultrasound to create what they called a “pain image,” a high-resolution image of the pig’s brain to see if it could detect the pain.
The image showed that the pig does indeed experience pain.
This suggests that the brain can be activated in the pig by stimuli.
“There are several ways to interpret this,” says John L. Smith, a professor of anatomy at Cornell University.
“There’s the notion that the pain is a sign that the animal is trying to communicate something, or it’s trying to tell us something.
There’s also the idea that the animals brain has a specific way of processing these signals, and that it has a mechanism to detect pain.
In other words, it might have an ability to tell a pig to be more sensitive.”
To find out whether that is true, the researchers used an infrared scanner, which is sensitive enough to detect the electrical signals emitted by pig brains.
They found that the pigs brain showed electrical activity when it was excited by a laser light.
This was a big deal.
“It is the first time that we’ve shown that an animal’s brain can actually generate a pain image using infrared,” says Smith.
“The next step is to show that this can be used in other animals as well.
If we can do that in a different animal, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for studying animals that don’t have the same sensory abilities.”
The researchers also wanted to see whether the pig could sense the pain in real time.
To do that, they inserted a small camera into the pig and recorded the pig doing a simple task.
Then they injected a dye into the dye and measured the pig brain response.
This is when the researchers saw that the Pig’s brain responded to the dye.
So what could this mean for humans?
If you’ve ever felt the pain of a cat or dog, it probably wasn’t the result of a physical attack.
You may have had a bad cold, a sore throat, or some other physical symptom that was caused by a virus.
“I think the first thing that is going to come to mind is that we can’t be the only animals that experience pain,” says Lenny H. Schuster, an associate professor of animal behavior and behavioral neuroscience at the University at Buffalo.
“I think that we could also use the pig to study pain in humans,” says Schuster.
“We could study the pig as a model system that we have a very good understanding of.
We could study what we can learn from the pig.”
For this work, the team is also developing a system that can read and respond to the brain’s pain signals.
They’re also developing algorithms that can be sent to animals in the lab to measure and interpret the intensity of their pain responses.
“The next steps are to build a whole set of algorithms that are capable of sensing these signals,” says B. Michael L. Leverette, a graduate student in neuroscience at Cornell and co-author of the study.
“What that means is that in the future we could have sensors that can detect when the pig is feeling pain, and we could send them signals to a computer that then responds with different stimuli.”
There are a number of different ways to use animals in studies.
“You can use them as a surrogate for humans, or you can use animals as a proxy for human patients,” says Jana Czaja, a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience and the co-lead author of the paper.
“In general, you want to avoid doing something like that.”
In the next phase of their work, they’re going to explore how different kinds of animals respond to pain.
“For example, if you can develop a system for sensing pain in a variety of different kinds, then you can be able to study the pain signals of the different animals that you can study,” says H. David P. Schulze, a senior research scientist in neuroscience who was not involved in the study, “and see how they respond to these different kinds.”
“If this study can be replicated, it would be a huge step forward in understanding how the brain works,” says Czaj.
“That would be the most important thing to be able, for example, to create an artificial limb or an artificial muscle.”
The study was published in Nature Neuroscience.