University College London researchers have revealed that
premature babies do experience pain and that is factor is often overlooked.
The fact that some premature babies do not cry out during
procedures like the "heel prick" test, has led researchers to
speculate that they may not experience pain. However UCL researchers conducted
the test on 12 premature babies and found that there were changes of oxygen
levels in an area of the brain called the somatosensory cortex.
"Although the study is small, it does raise concerns
about the tools normally used by doctors to establish whether a baby is feeling
pain," said Dr Rebeccah Slater, who led the research. "Infants may
appear to be pain free, but may, according to brain activity measurements,
still be experiencing pain."
The study appears in
the Public Library of Science journal.