Algometer/Algesimeter/Algesiometer

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This is a device for measuring sensitivity to pain. It can be a simple hand-held device such as very thick Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments, or it can be a robotic device such as The Woodpecker.


Man being tested.jpg
A man being tested for either touch or pain using the Du Bois-Reymond electrical algometer.
This is image number 35 from Criminal Man, According to the Classification of Cesare Lombroso,vbriefly summarized by his daughter, Gina Lombroso-Ferrero G. P. Putnam`s Sons, New York and London, The Knickerbocker Press, 1911, available in full online at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29895/29895-h/29895-h.htm and at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29895/29895-h/29895-h.htm.
The relevant portion of the test states: “General Sensibility [touch] and Sensibility to Pain are measured by a common electric apparatus (Du Bois-Reymond), adapted by Lombroso for use as an algometer. (See Fig. 35.) It consists of an induction coil, put into action by a bichromate battery. The poles of the secondary coil are placed in contact with the back of the patient's hand and brought slowly up behind the index finger, when the strength [Pg 247] of the induced current is increased until the patient feels a prickling sensation in the skin (general sensibility) and subsequently a sharp pain (sensibility to pain). The general sensibility of normal individuals is 40 and the sensibility to pain, 10-25: the sensibility of the criminal is much less acute and sometimes non-existent.” (Criminal Man, According to the Classification of Cesare Lombroso, briefly summarized by his daughter, Gina Lombroso-Ferrero) G. P. Putnam`s Sons, New York and London, The Knickerbocker Press, 1911.)
For further studies by Lombroso see: Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman, Cesare Lombroso, Guglielmo Ferrero, translated by and with a new introduction by Nicole Hahn Rafter, Mary Gibson Duke University Press, Jan 16, 2004, available from Google Books in preview mode at: https://books.google.ca/books?id=S3g29DlTxNsC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.


Algometer used by, Holmes and Head (1911)[edit]

This was a pressure algometer device consisting of a metal cylinder containing a spring attached to a plunger and having a flat tip. It was used to test pressure pain thresholds. (For further information see: Chapter 2.9 Quantitative sensory testing D. Yarnitsky and D. Pud, C.D. Clinical Neurophysiology, Volume 1 (Revised and Enlarged Edition) Binnie, R. Cooper, F. Mauguie`re, J.W. Osselton, P.F. Prior, B.M. Tedman (Editors) EMG, Nerve Conduction and Evoked Potentials, http://132.74.7.18/ra/blue/file/4238-002-009.pdf.)

Finger algometer[edit]

This is a mechanical algometer for testing pain thresholds for fingers. It was developed by Keele who noted that the “hand-operated pressure gauge is a relatively crude instrument and the technique of using it varies. To control the method and to refine the technique, I devised the finger algometer. The finger algometer (Fig 3): The finger is used instead of the forehead. The exact site can be found and retested on several occasions. Ten sites can be used for each subject on any one occasion. Pressure is provided by compressed air delivered into the syringe. A wide range of pressures can be selected and different rates of increase in pressure can be used. When the end-point is reached, the pressure can be released at once by the subject using a valve and the pain threshold read off a gauge by the observer.” (Measurement of Pain and Analgesia, C A Keele Page 73-78 Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, year unknown, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1900645/pdf/procrsmed00174-0077.pdf.)


Keele finger.png
Keele’s finger algometer.
Image sourced from figure 3 of (Measurement of Pain and Analgesia Chairman Professor C A Keele Page 73-78 Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, year unknown, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1900645/pdf/procrsmed00174-0077.pdf). Image likely not in the public domain but used here under fair use rules for an education purpose in a situation in which there is no known alternative image.


Cattell algometer[edit]

This is an early mechanical/pressure algometer.


Cattell algometer.png
Cattell Algometer on a table, 1895
Public domain image taken from Titchener, Edward B. 1895. Photographic Album on Psychological Instruments. 59 Photographs. (Collection R and B. Evans)


McDougall used this device to measure mechanical pain in subjects during the historic expedition to the Torres Straights. He found that the locals were different than Englishmen.

Further information[edit]

On individual sensitivity to pain. Harold Griffing, Psychological Review, Volume 3, 1896, Page 412-415, https://books.google.ca/books?id=kIa3AAAAIAAJ&dq=cattell+pressure+algometer&source=gbs_navlinks_s.