A new method to treat phantom limb pain after an amputation has been discovered by scientists.
The method, which is developed by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, University of Gothenburg and Sahlgrenska University Hospital, is based on a unique combination of several technologies, and have been tested on a patient suffering from severe phantom limb pain for 48 years.
The new method uses muscle signals from the patient's arm stump to drive a system known as augmented reality, while the electrical signals in the muscles are sensed by electrodes on the skin.
The signals are then translated into arm movements by complex algorithms and the patient can see himself on a screen with a superimposed virtual arm, which is controlled using his own neural command in real time.
Max Ortiz Catalan said that there are several features of this system which combined might be the cause of pain relief.
He said that as the motor areas in the brain needed for movement of the amputated arm are reactivated, the patient obtains visual feedback that tricks the brain into believing there is an arm executing such motor commands.
He said that their method differs from previous treatment because the control signals are retrieved from the arm stump, and thus the affected arm is in charge.
Catalan added that the promotion of motor execution and the vivid sensation of completion provided by augmented reality may be the reason for the patient improvement.
The study was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience.