Joy Egede


#Mathematics  –  ? Winner 2020 #FWISAward

“Automatic multi-modal neonatal pain assessment”

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Considered as one of the world leaders in pain estimation for newborn babies, Dr Egede has dedicated her research career to understanding the signals and triggers of pain in infants.

Newborn infants in Neonatal Intensive Care Units may go through many painful medical procedures in order to save/improve their lives. Since neonates are unable to communicate pain verbally, Dr Egede’s research focuses on the assessment of pain using alternative methods. Currently, clinical practitioners use various pain measurement scales, however, these are highly subjective and provide inconsistent measurements.  

This is a challenging area of study due to ethical limitations and complexities with data gathering. Dr Egede’s proposal centres around the idea of using machine-assisted pain estimation methods in order to accurately predict what infants are feeling. Her computational approach can provide accurate, real-time pain monitoring and give notifications when excessive pain levels are detected. The machine-assisted proposal measures pain via multiple ‘signals’ including behavioural and muscular cues. Dr Egede’s research is innovative, however, as it seeks to consider the brain’s activity as well. Neural measurements are particularly useful when areas of the body are inaccessible and babies are under sedation – both times when they are at a high risk of experiencing painful stimuli.  This is vital work as clinical studies have repeatedly shown that unsuitable treatment of infant pain could have a severe impact on their neurological development later in life.


“Pain is not unidimensional. It doesn’t just come with scale – a lot or a little – it comes with other baggage: how threatening it is, how emotionally disturbing, how it affects your ability to concentrate.”

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Stephen McMahon, London Pain Consortium


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