Quantitative Sensory Testing | Overview
Skin sensation is important in our everyday lives. Our skin is sensitive to all types of stimuli such as touch, pressure and temperature. This helps us to tell when something feels rough, cold, or painful, for example.
Quantitative sensory testing (QST) is a non-invasive technique used to assess normal sensory features, or a gain or loss of sensory nerve function. Our research group uses several different sensory tests that allow us to precisely measure non-painful and painful sensation in people of all ages.
Touch Sensation Testing
When do you feel a light touch? When does it feel sharp? We can examine touch and sharp sensations. To do this, we use a series of thin fibers called von Frey hairs. Each fiber has a different weight, some are light (like a feather) and some are heavy. The hairs are gradually brought into contact with the skin until you “begin to feel something” or when the sensation first becomes “sharp like a pin-prick”.
Vibration Sensation Testing
A computer controlled vibrometer is used to measure vibration sensation. A small flat disc, the size of a dime, and attached to a hand-held probe, is gradually brought into contact with the skin. The disc moves very subtly from side to side, and increases in speed. When you begin to feel a “buzzing” sensation, you will press a button to stop the disc moving and the computer will give a read out of your vibration sensitivity.
Pressure Sensation Testing
A pressure algometer is used to look at pressure sensation. A small flat disc, the size of a dime, and attached to a hand-held probe, is gradually brought into contact with the skin. This allows us to look at how pressure-sensing nerve fibers located deep beneath the skin’s surface respond.
Temperature Sensation Testing
When does something feel warm versus hot? We place a computer-operated thermode on to the skin. The thermode temperature is slowly increased (or decreased) until you begin to feel a warm, cool, hot or cold sensation. When you begin to feel a specific thermal sensation, you will press a button to stop the thermode and the computer will give a read out of your temperature sensitivity.
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