UKF 2A Banozic

: Facial expression as a pain indicator of socially excluded chronic pain patients
Funding: Unity Through Knowledge Fund 2A
Duration: 20.04.2011.-13.05.2011.

Project leader: Adriana Banožić, M.Sc. (Laboratory for Pain Research)
Project co-applicant: Livia Puljak, M.D., Ph.D. (Laboratory for Pain Research)
Paricipating institutions: Faculty of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Maastricht and School of Medicine, University of Split
Administering institution: School  of Medicine, University of Split, Croatia
Collaborators: Prof.Dr.Sc. Johan Vlaeyen, Pim Peters (MSc), Prof. Dr. Liesbet Goubert of Ghent University

Significance of the project: Introducing facial recognition system in treatment and diagnosis of pain. Transferring this methodology to Croatia will be an added value for the School’s available set of techniques as well as a potential diagnostic tool in Pain Clinics in Croatia.
Summary: A fundamental problem in diagnostics of pain is that it entirely relies on patient’s self-report. The subjectivity of the patients’ pain reports has led to a search for surrogate pain indicators. To date, no objective surrogate with acceptably high sensitivity and specificity has been found.
This project aims at introducing facial expression analysis (FA) as a new approach to tackle this issue. This system comprises recording of patient facial expressions and subsequent computer analysis. Besides clinical implications, this technique will be used in current research project in which we examine the association of social exclusion to pain perception in chronic pain (CP) patients. CP patients are vulnerable to social exclusion processes due to detrimental effects of their illness.
In that context, FA methodology might be particularly useful because it would aid in detecting aspects of social pain that would otherwise be missed. In conclusion, our goal is to adopt FA methodology and implement that technology in diagnostic procedures in local Pain Clinic and our research practice.
This methodology could also be used to enable new collaborations, improve our innovation capacities, attract international research funding and contribute to education of young scientists in our PhD programs.

Project results: 
FACS system was successfully installed on Lab computer and is ready for use. Established collaboration with the research group in Maastricht that have a data­-base of assessments of different coders insures the adequate inter-rater reliability. Also this methodology was successfully implemented in research design related to social exclusion processes and pain perception and expressiveness. The research design for the facial expression as a pain indicator was in chronic pain patients was presented as a poster at a Symposium for Pain and Suffering at the University of Leuven on the 13th May 2011 which materialized the plans for collaborative study.
Considering the success of the visit and joint work there we have agreed to collaborate on a publication of the obtained results as well.
Initial agreement on elective course syllabus was made between Laboratory for Pain Research Group and Forensics graduate study, course details are still discussed and it is expected that in 2012 it would be encompassed in curriculum.
Staff training of the Pain clinic is planned in the following months parallel to the first pilot studies in this project.

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