Pain has a complex pathophysiology that is expressed in multifaceted and heterogeneous clinical phenotypes. This makes research on pain and its treatment a potentially data-rich field as large amounts of complex data are generated. Typical sources of such data are investigations with functional magnetic resonance imaging, complex quantitative sensory testing, next-generation DNA sequencing and functional genomic research approaches, such as those aimed at analgesic drug discovery or repositioning of drugs known from other indications as new analgesics. Extracting information from these big data requires complex data scientific-based methods belonging more to computer science than to statistics. A particular interest is currently focused on machine learning, the methods of which are used for the detection of interesting and biologically meaningful structures in high-dimensional data. Subsequently, classifiers can be created that predict clinical phenotypes from, e.g. clinical or genetic features acquired from subjects. In addition, knowledge discovery in big data accessible in electronic knowledge bases, can be used to generate hypotheses and to exploit the accumulated knowledge about pain for the discovery of new analgesic drugs. This enables so-called data-information-knowledge-wisdom (DIKW) approaches to be followed in pain research. This article highlights current examples from pain research to provide an overview about contemporary data scientific methods used in this field of research.
Keywords: Clinicak pharmakology; Data science; Human experimental pain research; Machine-learning; Pharmacometrics.