Pain Less: the future of pain relief – new exhibition at Science Museum


The Science Museum opens a new, free exhibition, Pain Less, on Thursday 8th November that explores the future of pain relief and the different ways that pain management is being developed.

Wednesday 7 November, 10.00-11.00am.
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD

Join us for the media preview of Pain Less: the future of pain relief at the Science Museum. Further details to be announced soon. To register interest please e-mail:

Pain relief is a huge area of research and scientists are constantly looking at new ways of how we can manage our pain. Scientists now have new understanding of the link between the brain and the body and are investigating how this can help us to overcome pain in future. Would a pain-free world be a good thing? Or not?

Through four main research areas into pain and consciousness, Pain Less looks at the personal stories that highlight these different areas. From Steven Pete, the man who feels no pain, to Peter King – the phantom limb patient who is in constant pain, except when he  exercises his missing arm in virtual reality, or Carol Praetorius who appeared to feel pain while sedated but had no memory of it afterwards, to Melvin Mezue, who volunteers as a subject of pain research.

Pain Less asks whether this new research into how we perceive pain could also help reduce pain, as well as the number of painkillers we’re popping – since according to a market research survey by SymphonyIRI Group, a little under 6 billion painkillers were sold to us Brits in the UK last year.


Suzy Antoniw, Head of Content for Pain Less, said; “All of us have a personal relationship to pain but is our current way of dealing with pain working or do we need to think differently?  A world without pain could be dangerous, but for the 1 in 5 who live in chronic pain, it could be life-changing. The Science Museum’s new Pain Less exhibition explores the future of pain relief and whether new understanding of the link between the brain and body can help us find ways to overcome pain. Pain Less encourages us to consider what would a future with less pain means for us..”

Painkillers and powerful anaesthetics work for most people but there are side effects, drugs may become less effective, or addictive. Pain Less covers four new research areas into pain and consciousness and the role our minds play in managing it. It asks whether this new research can help towards the future of pain relief. The research areas are:-

No pain – some people feel no pain because of a genetic mutation that blocks signals between the body and the brain. Drug developers are looking for ways to use this mutation and find new pain treatments, free of side effects. It has led them to use tarantula venom as a potential source for painkillers.

Mood & pain – pain is more than a simple physical response.  New research tells us that the brain reacts differently to the same sensory stimulus according to cognition, context and emotion. Neuroscientists use lasers, poking sticks and brain scans to find out more about how our emotions and expectations influence the way we experience pain.

Brain training - phantom limb pain feels like it is in a lost limb. The pain exists but we don’t know where it really is. New treatments use gaming technology to ‘trick’ the brain and reduce pain. These virtual treatments could help with other types of chronic pain.

Losing consciousness - We lose consciousness through anaesthesia to avoid feeling pain during surgery. Research into memory under anaesthesia suggests that we might feel pain but not remember it. Can new technology to monitor consciousness help prevent the rare cases of pain awareness during anaesthesia?

The exhibition content was developed with input from two participatory groups who co-created two additional elements to the exhibition:

Game - a school group of Y9s from the Langley Academy have co-created an interactive exhibit
Film: pain patients have co-created an artistic response from their personal perspective.

Pain Less – the future of pain relief at the Science Museum, London
8th November – November 2013
Free entry

Display features

Object breakdown
No-Pain Zone
DNA sampling kit
DNA sequencer
Helmet to protect no-pain child
Tarantula skin and milking equipment

Mood and Pain Zone
Von Frey hair kit (To inflict painful stimulus in lab)
Laser to inflict painful stimulus in lab
fMRI image and portrait of someone who experiences pain as part of Irene’s experiments

Brain Training Zone
Kinect, Visor and hat
Prosthetic limb from phantom limb patient
Mirror box

Losing consciousness Zone
fEITER electrodes and wires (used to see brain activity as it loses consciousness)
BIS machine
Anaesthesia machine
Plasticine figurine made under sedation by someone who also had pain perception during an operation but had no memory of it afterwards

The exhibition is supported by the Wellcome Trust. With major funders including; the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland. And with additional support from: British Journal of Anaesthesia, Anaesthesia, Journal of the AAGBI . Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, Obstetric Anaesthetists’ Association, The British Pain Society.


Social Media information
Blogs can be read here –
Twitter: #painless

For further press information please contact Laura Singleton, Science Museum Press Office. E-mail: Tel: 0207 942 4364. @LauraSingleton3

Visitor Information

Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD. Open daily 10.00 to 18.00, except 24-26 December. / 0870 870 4868

Notes to Editors

Science Museum
The Science Museum’s collections form an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical change from the past. Aiming to be the best place in the world for people to enjoy science, the Science Museum makes sense of the science that shapes our lives, sparking curiosity, releasing creativity and changing the future by engaging people of all generations and backgrounds in science, engineering, medicine, technology, design and enterprise.

The Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.