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The Assessment of Pain

Using facial expressions in laboratory mice, rats, rabbits and macaques.

  • Project Leader: Dr Matt Leach
  • Staff: Dr Amy Miller
  • Sponsors: National Centre for 3Rs

Our aim of this project is to investigate whether facial expressions can be objectively and reliably used to measure post-procedural pain in a range of laboratory animal species either alone, or in conjunction with other techniques.

Facial expressions are routinely used to assess pain and other emotional states in humans, particularly in those who are unable to communicate verbally (e.g. newborn babies).

There is now an increasing body of literature demonstrating that facial expressions change in response to painful procedures in animals. If these expressions are a direct response to pain, then this may offer a new method of assessing pain in laboratory animals that undergo potentially painful procedures. Pain in animals is of considerable public concern. Pain compromises not only animal welfare, but also potentially the validity of the data collected from animals used research. To alleviate pain, we must be able to assess its severity and duration effectively

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