Bern Pain and Stress Lab

At the Bern Pain and Stress Lab, we measure pain, anxiety and stress as part of research work or clinical studies.

With our studies, we aim to enhance understanding of the function of the somatosensory system and the development of pain and pain-related disorders.

For this purpose, we develop and validate instruments that measure functions of the somatosensory system and differentiate types of pain (nociceptive, neuropathic and nociplastic). We ensure that our findings become part of everyday clinical life. The objective is a mechanism-based pain therapy.

Offer at Bern Pain and Stress Lab

We will be happy to partner with you in the context of research projects or providing services. Our services include:

  • Accompanying and/or advisory work to measure pain and nociception in clinical studies
  • Non-invasive measurements of the somatosensory system (sensory, nostalgic, mechanical and thermally) in lateral comparison and for healthy reference
  • Subjective and objective, non-invasive measurements of stress reactions in clinic and research
  • Education in quantitative sensor testing (QST) and bedside test
Bern Pain & Stress Lab

How we work

The following research groups of the Health Professions department work at the Bern Pain & Stress Lab:

  • Nociceptive sensitivity group


At the Bern Pain & Stress Lab, we have the following measuring methods:


Nociception is a reaction of the somatosensory system to a tissue injury or a physical threat to the integrity of a tissue. It encompasses the function of the afferent nociceptive neurons, the organisation of the spinal and supraspinal switching points and the descending inhibitory pathways.

  • Quantitative sensory testing
  • Clinical sensory nociceptive testing


Is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with or resembling actual or potential tissue damage. Pain is not a stimulus, but a reaction to a stimulus!

  • VAS, NRS Likert Scale
  • Questionnaires to record the perception of pain

In our examination of patients with chronic pain, we pay attention to the correct terminology and the adequate assignment of the measurement instruments for pain perception and nociception.

Quantitative sensory testing (QST) is a psychophysical test procedure in which the functional state of the somatosensory system is analysed using calibrated stimuli and subjective sensory information. Standardised sensory and nociceptive stimuli are applied and the reaction of the somatosensory system is recorded using subjective feedback. The QST comprises the following measurement methods:

Sensory thresholds

  • Cold sensation threshold (CDT)
  • Heat Sensation Threshold (WDT)
  • Temperature Sensation Limits (TSL)
  • Cold Pain Threshold (CPT)
  • Heat Pain Threshold (HPT)
  • Mechanical sensation threshold (MDT)
  • Vibration Sensation Threshold (VDT)

Nociceptive thresholds

  • Paradoxical heat pain (PHS)
  • Mechanical Pain Threshold (MPT)
  • Mechanical Pain Sensitivity (MPS)
  • Wind-up Ratio (WDT)
  • Pressure Pain Threshold (PPT)
  • Dynamic mechanical allodynia (DMA)

The reactions of the somatosensory system in pain patients are increasingly important information in the treatment of chronic pain patients. QST, as the golden standard in sensory nociceptive measurement, is too complex and cost-intensive for everyday clinical practice. Therefore, clinical tests are necessary in everyday life. We develop test batteries for everyday clinical practice and search for sensory and nociceptive relationships in patients' pain experience in the sense of mechanism-based pain therapy.

Assuming that, scientifically speaking, there are no pain nerves, pain pathways or pain centres, we consider cortical centres for the development of pain perception as multifactorial brain areas. The cortical areas for processing nociception and the development of pain perceptions are also involved in processing signals of stress and temperature changes in the human body. In this context, measurements of body temperature (shell and core temperature) and stress processing signals are important aspects in understanding patients with chronic pain.

We use the following instruments to measure body temperatures (shell and core temperatures) and stress:

  • BodyTemp. measurements (core temperature and shell temperature) during exercise (BodyCap eCelsius performance test) 
  • CORE Body sensor
  • Infrared cam
  • Heart rate variability (Polar), orthostatic test, RSA measurement, Valsalva manoeuvre

Data generated during nociceptive or sensory measurements must be comparable so that they can be used scientifically. In this context, we use software and databases that comply with international standards:

  • qQuista software for QST analysis
  • Kubios HRV Scientific for analysing heart rate variability
  • eViewer Medical monitor for analysing core body temperature

Management Bern Pain and Stress Lab