Response to Painful Stimuli

Study Goals

The purpose of this study is to develop a new technique for evaluating pain in a healthy brain.

Our Approach

Your brain’s activity would be monitored and recorded using a process called Diffuse Optical Imaging (DOI).  Subjects will wear a specially designed cap with wires coming out and try to sit as still as possible while we apply different types of stimuli.  Since the study’s main purpose is to test a new way of evaluating pain, there will be sections involving brief, painful stimuli in the form of a slight electric shock or heat.  The device will be set to levels you are comfortable with and the equipment is designed so that no physical harm can occur.

Eligibility to Participate

We are looking for healthy males between the ages of 18-40 who are non-smokers, are not currently taking any prescriptions, and have no history of chronic pain or opioid abuse.  Also, due to the equipment’s sensitivity to hair pigment, subjects with short (2 inches or less) and lightly-colored hair (light brown or blonde) are preferable.

Study Visit Overview

The study visit takes place at Massachusetts General Hospital East in the Charlestown Navy Yard.  It includes the following:

  1. Subjects will be asked to sit in a chair and a special “swim cap” with red light shining from small wires will be placed on their head
  2. Once the cap is in place, participants will be asked to sit still while we shine painless, harmless light onto their scalp.
  3. A small device which emits heat or electrical stimuli, in the form of a mild shock, will be placed on the subject’s left hand. The device will not cause harm and the intensity of the stimuli will be determined by the subject.
  4. The study lasts between 1.5-2 hours.


Participants will receive $50 for completion of the study visit.


This study is supported by the NIH.


To learn more about this study, please email