Doctors have created a new way to treat those with phantom limb pain.
Through the use of a computer-generate augmented reality patients can see and move a virtual arm controlled by their stump. Electric signals form the muscles in the amputated limb communicate with the computer and allow real-time movement, reports the BBC.
One amputee, Ture Johanson, has said that his pain has reduced dramatically thanks to the new computer program, which he is able to use regularly in his own home. He says that he now has periods when he is pain free and no longer wakes up in the night due to intense periods of pain.
“The pain is much less now. I still have it often but it is shorter, for only a few seconds where before it was for minutes. And I now feel it only in my little finger and the top of my ring finger. Before it was from my wrist to my little finger” says Mr Johanson.
Mr Johanson says he has also noticed other benefits. He now perceives his phantom hand to be resting and relaxed rather than a clenched fist. He is also able to control the movement of his phantom hand even when not wired up to the computer or watching his virtual limb.
Max Ortiz Catalan, the man behind the treatment, says giving the muscles a work-out whilst being able to watch the actions carried out may be the key to the therapy.
“The motor areas in the brain needed for movement of the amputated arm are reactivated, and the patient obtains visual feedback that tricks the brain into believing there is an arm executing such motor commands. He experiences himself as a whole, with the amputated arm back in place.”
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