But does this growing body of evidence looking at the brains of people in pain mean we can really understand someone else's pain? Does imaging give an objective measure of a subjective experience and is one person's seven on the pain scale the same as that of someone else? Irene discusses in a two part programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
Pain is a highly complex process and still not fully understood. One of the biggest challenges to neuroscientists and clinicians is to work out why some people develop chronic pain and others in a similar situation don't. In conversation with her fellow researchers Irene shows how certain types of pain, such as that experienced by those with phantom limbs and those with diabetic nerve damage, can help reveal how pain is generated in the brain.
Irene also explores how we determine if premature babies feel pain and how best to treat that pain.
And she asks if the latest knowledge about pain is providing evidence strong enough to be used in the courtroom.