Alpha Brain Waves’s Speed Predicts with 100% Accuracy the Intensity of the Experience of Post-surgery Pain

“In a pilot study, published today (DATE) in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, a team of researchers showed how electroencephalography (EEG) can be used to measure brain activity in patients about to undergo chest surgery, or thoracotomy.

Before surgery, the team measured the patients’ alpha waves, brain signals which oscillate between 8 and 14 Hz. Then, over 72 hours following surgery, patients were asked to score their pain on a scale from 1-10. The researchers were able to demonstrate a clear link between the patient’s alpha waves and their responses to pain. In particular, they found that people whose alpha waves oscillated below 9 Hz were much more vulnerable to severe pain post-surgery.

The alpha waves measured before surgery were able to predict, with 100 per cent accuracy, which patients would report a pain score after surgery of 7/10 or higher.

This work extends findings from a longstanding collaboration between Dr Mazaheri and Dr David Seminowicz (Western University, Canada), in which work led by Dr Andrew Furman (University of Maryland Baltimore) showed PAF is a reliable predictor of pain sensitivity across multiple pain models and timescales (Furman 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021). The new study adds a crucial piece to this literature: the first validation of the pain sensitivity biomarker in a clinical population.”

The above excerpt is taken from: University of Birmingham. (2022, April 5). Alpha brain waves can predict post-surgery pain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2022 from

Original study reference: Samantha K. Millard, Andrew J. Furman, Amy Kerr, David A. Seminowicz, Fang Gao, Babu V. Naidu, Ali Mazaheri. Predicting postoperative pain in lung cancer patients using preoperative peak alpha frequencyBritish Journal of Anaesthesia, 2022; DOI: 10.1016/j.bja.2022.03.006