Virtual reality effective for treating phantom-limb pain of amputees

A virtual-reality treatment may provide relief for amputees suffering from phantom-limb pain, according to a study published this week in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

In one case, a man who suffered severe phantom pain for 48 years after his arm was amputated reported a "dramatic reduction" in pain after the experimental treatment. Signals from his limb stump controlled a virtual reality arm, according to the research, Scientific American reported

According to Scientific American, nearly 70 percent of amputees experience phantom pain, which may be a result of remaining brain representation of the limb.

The treatment used augmented reality. Electrodes recorded muscle signals from the stump of the patient's arm, then software converted those signals into virtual arm movement. That eased pain and allowed the patient to perform simulated tasks.

"The effect of the interventions was positively and noticeably perceived by the patient and his relatives," the study concluded. "Despite the limitation of a single case study, the successful results of the proposed system in a patient for whom other medical and non-medical treatments have been ineffective justifies and motivates further investigation in a wider study."

To learn more:
- read the article in Scientific American
- see the study abstract in Frontiers in Neuroscience

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