Chronic pain is a global health challenge of enormous proportions. Estimates claim that over 1.5 billion people live with chronic pain worldwide, which results in $245 billion USD in global economic costs annually. Recently, minimally and non-invasive neuro-technologies for pain modulation promise to provide a new avenue to support people living with chronic pain. Especially in the United States (U.S.) pain modulation has gained attention as a low-risk alternative to pain treatment with addictive opioids. However, I hypothesise that the use of these neuro-technologies will produce new vulnerabilities for consumers, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) users as well as clinical patients. To date, there is a lack of understanding and an urgent need for anticipating these vulnerabilities in order to render neuro-technology a responsible contribution to the health challenge of chronic pain in Europe. Within the proposed project, I will study the socio-political context and actual use of neuro-technologies in pain care in the context of the U.S. I will transfer the resulting insights and learned lessons to relevant stakeholders in the study, design, and governance of pain modulation in Europe. The overall aim of REGAIN is to provide an integrative framework for studying, designing, and governing “Responsible Neuro-Technologies of Pain” (NTPs). I ground this framework in an extensive qualitative study of (a) the socio-political context of neuro-technology in pain care across the U.S. and Europe as well as (b) the user practices in consumer, DIY, and clinical pain care with minimally and non-invasive NTPs in the U.S.
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