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Phantom limb pain after amputation may be treatable with new technology

Phantom limb pain after amputation may be treatable with new technology

Photo: Chalmers University of Technology

Phantom limb pain that occurs when a body part is amputated may be reduced by means of a new technology. Here, the brain is trained movements of the missing body part with an alternative part of the brain.

Researchers from the Japanese university of Osaka and the British university of Cambridge have developed a robotic arm that can be controlled by means of brain activity. To ten patients who have an arm missing, was asked the robot to control it.

The team discovered that the pain increased when the patients arm, tried to control the movement to associate with their missing arm. “The part of the brain that motion controls works fine, but there is communicated. There is a discrepancy,” says researcher Takufumi Yanagisawa.

The patients were followed up by the researchers trained to the ‘wrong’ part of the brain to train. For example, in a patient without a left arm, the robotic arm controlled by a movement that is associated with the right arm.

When this technique successfully has been applied, took the phantom pain significantly. The results of the research are published in Nature Communications.

Reconstruct

The technology makes use of the ability of the brain to reconstruct and new things to learn. The researchers find the results of the study are promising, but they emphasize the effects of the treatment is still temporary. In addition, such a treatment very costly.

However, the researchers suggest that a similar treatment in the near future will be accessible and that, ideally, people about five to ten years the technology in the home can use.

Phantom limb pain is common among people with a hand or arm is amputated. Despite the fact that the body part is missing, it feels as if it is still there. Between 50 and 80 per cent experience chronic pain which normal painkillers do not work.

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