Neuroimaging-based pain biomarkers: definitions, clinical and research applications, and evaluation frameworks to achieve personalized pain medicine

Pain Rep. 2019 Aug 7;4(4):e762. doi: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000762. eCollection 2019 Jul-Aug.


One of the key ambitions of neuroimaging-based pain biomarker research is to augment patient and clinician reporting of clinically relevant phenomena with neural measures for prediction, prognosis, and detection of pain. Despite years of productive research on the neuroimaging of pain, such applications have seen little advancement. However, recent developments in identifying brain-based biomarkers of pain through advances in technology and multivariate pattern analysis provide some optimism. Here, we (1) define and review the different types of potential neuroimaging-based biomarkers, their clinical and research applications, and their limitations and (2) describe frameworks for evaluation of pain biomarkers used in other fields (eg, genetics, cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune system disorders, and rare diseases) to achieve broad clinical and research utility and minimize the risks of misapplication of this emerging technology. To conclude, we discuss future directions for neuroimaging-based biomarker research to achieve the goal of personalized pain medicine.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Chronic pain; Classification; MRI; Multivariate; Neuroimaging; Pattern; Prediction; Prognosis; Signature.

Publication types

  • Review