CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have received a grant to fund a study that could change the way chronic pain is treated.

They will be trying to monitor the brain's response to pain. By understanding the response, they hope they can manipulate the pain in a way to help patients.

This could lead to alternative and safer treatments instead of the usual pain killers, many of which can be addictive.

"Being able to develop a treatment that's not an opioid medication or not some kind of addicting medication would really be a great advance," said Dr. Jeff Elias, a neurosurgeon.

The more than $5 million grant for this project is coming from the National Institutes of Health.

It will fund a clinical trial to develop a brain stimulation approach to modulate pain signals.

There is early evidence that part of the brain, called the insula, plays an important role in how people perceive pain.

The researchers hope that improving an existing technique of deep brain stimulation will provide relief.

This type of treatment is already used for epilepsy and movement disorders, and there is evidence that it may be useful in combating chronic pain.

The researchers are planning to begin enrolling patients in the clinical trial this summer.