Cause And Treatment Of Phantom Limb Pain In Amputees Discovered

Posted: Oct 27 2016, 12:05pm CDT | by , Updated: Oct 27 2016, 10:28pm CDT , in Latest Science News


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Cause and Treatment of Phantom Limb Pain in Amputees Discovered
Researchers have identified the cause of chronic, and currently untreatable, pain in those with amputations and severe nerve damage, as well as a potential treatment which relies on engineering instead of drugs.
  • Cause of Phantom Limbs pain along with treatment discovered

Reorganization in the wiring of the brain is responsible for the sensation of phantom limbs in amputees.

Scientists have found why amputees feel the sensation of phantom limb pain. According to a research team from the Osaka University in Japan and the University of Cambridge, the wiring in brain undergoes ‘Reorganization’.

It is due to this reorganization pain occurs in the amputated limbs of a vast majority of amputees. The researchers also found a proposed way of treating the affliction through the use of artificial intelligence techniques.

The researchers used a brain-machine interface to come up with this conclusion. They trained a group of ten amputees so they could control a robotic arm from their brain.

The research team found learning to control the prosthetic through the amputated arm resulted in pain. Moreover the pain was more than the usual phantom limb pain. However if the amputees learned to move their prosthetic with the help of the other whole hand their pain decreased.

The result led the researchers to conclude amputees experience chronic pain in amputated areas due to nerve injury. The brain creates sensation and movement with the help of a crossed wires system of nerves.

Amputation can disturb the nerve system thus leading to phantom limb pain. The condition can be treated by mending the disruption in the system using artificial intelligence in brain. The results of the trial were published in the journal Nature Communications.

It is believed 50 to 80 percent of amputees experience chronic phantom limb pain. Dr. Ben Seymour a neuroscientist based in Cambridge's Department of Engineering was the lead author of the study.

According to Seymour, the pain is like a burning or hypersensitive sensation and painkillers are not able to treat it. Therefore an engineering based treatment option is better than a drug option for amputees in pain.

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