Gary B. Rollman,
Emeritus Professor of Psychology,
University of Western Ontario
(In addition to links below, see weekly archives in the right column)
Friday, October 11, 2013
Sensorimotor cortex reorganization: a ghost story | NeuWrite San Diego
Ugh … not again. The all-too-familiar pain appears in your hand. The muscles cramp and the crushing pressure mounts. Nothing you do alleviates the ache, and the longer it persists, the more intolerable it becomes. You try with all your might to unclench it, move it to any other position. But, as in those nightmares where you try desperately to run, but cannot coax your legs to move, your hand feels paralyzed – because there is no hand. The sensation is so real, so intense, yet its origin is but a ghost … a phantom pain.
As surreal as the phenomenon may sound, phantom pain emanating from a lost limb is a genuine, debilitating condition estimated to affect a staggering 50-80% of amputees 1. While some sufferers find relief from interventions such as pharmacologic analgesics or mirror therapy2, the condition is intractable for others. A major challenge to treating phantom pain is our incomplete understanding of how the nervous system adapts following amputation.