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Augmented Reality Treatment May Alleviate Phantom Limb Pain

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the perception-is-weird dept.

Medicine 30

Zothecula writes with this excerpt from GizMag: "Studies have shown that a large percentage of amputees feel pain in their missing limbs. ... The ailment has so far proven difficult to treat, but a new study suggests therapy involving augmented reality and gaming could stimulate these unused areas of the brain (full journal article), resulting in a significant reduction in discomfort. ... In testing the treatment, the team used myolectric pattern recognition to predict phantom movements in the stump of a chronic PLP patient. By using the patterns as inputs in an augmented setting where a virtual arm was superimposed on the patient's real-life body, as well as controlling a car racing game, the team were able to gradually reduce the pain reported by the patient to zero." The study is an early one: there's only a single test subject, but one that had no success with any other form of treatment.

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That House episode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46346831)

Was that a more-or-less exaggerated version of this sort of technique?

Re:That House episode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46346925)

Was thinking that myself. Your talking about the one with the guy who was a Canadian soldier and lost a hand or forearm, something of that nature?

Re:That House episode (1)

irving47 (73147) | about a year ago | (#46347685)

Yeah, he had lost the lower half of his arm. House set up a box with a mirror in it that when both arms were inserted, made it look like he had two complete arms/hands.
When House told him to clench as tight as he could, and soon after relax, I guess his brain finally told the bad limb to stop clenching or doing whatever it thought it was supposed to be doing.

Re:That House episode (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about a year ago | (#46350199)

It's originally something that V. S. Ramachandran had been researching with mirrors. Ramachandran's results weren't perfect, but relieved the symptoms notably. Using VR/AR was a natural extension, as it addresses the limitations of the mirror (angles of view, size of field of view, reliance on a remaining limb for visual stimulus etc).

Re:That House episode (2)

Evtim (1022085) | about a year ago | (#46347999)

Which in turn is an exaggerated version of a....mirror. Major reduction of expense I'd say...

Read the following two books or more details:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Man-... [amazon.com]
http://www.amazon.com/Phantoms... [amazon.com]

Re:That House episode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46351127)

Or read the original article too, for more details about mirror boxes...

Re:That House episode (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#46350083)

Yes. That was from earlier research using exactly the mirrorbox setup House used. Of course when House did it, the relief was complete and instantaneous because that's how things work on TV, but the technique (minus the criminal assault and drugging) was real.

I'm a Furry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46346841)

And I my phantom tail wags sometimes. I'm not sure I want that to go away.

How would this work? (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#46346865)

I'm curious because my Step Father (long departed) had lost a finger in an industrial accident in the 50s. Curiously he'd complain from time to time that his finger "itched" and it would drive him crazy because obviously it wasn't there. In his case I would have liked to have seen something along these lines that could have provided him some relief because when it happened it did cause a lot of anguish. At the time doctors had suggested hand surgery to shunt the nerves but since he made a living with his hands he didn't want to do that .. "If it ain't broke don't fix it."

Re:How would this work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46346989)


It seems that research about effectiveness of the therapy is inconclusive.

Easier solution (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46346929)

If you know anyone who has experiences phantom pain, I would suggest Mirror Therapy. Anyone can try it for the cost of a $20 mirror from Wal-Mart. It works. Takes about 4 weeks, 15 minutes per day. You won't have to wait for the Virtual Reality goggles to come to a store near you. This will get you started... http://blog.ted.com/2008/03/21/phantom_limb_pa/

Re:Easier solution (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46346999)

I think the authors of the study are quite aware of mirror therapy given how many times it is mentioned in just the abstract of the article, and that they point out this particular patient was not responding to it.

Re:Easier solution (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#46347053)

I came here to say this. I'll add Ramachandran's book to the above post, Phantoms in the Brain [amazon.com] .

Re:Easier solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46350925)

Your joke in the Stallman thread make me wake up my 9 month old son with laughter (Thanks a lot! haha jk) and you just turned me onto a book whose topic is of great interest to me. You're on a mofo-ing roll today, sir (or possibly madam).

Re:Easier solution (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#46351087)

Yeah, I'm pretty awesome. And you can call me Sir.

Re:Easier solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46347149)

Apologies, I didn't ready the article before I posted since I was already aware of VR and Mirror Therapy. I see that it mentions Mirror Therapy. You may want to mention Mirror Therapy in your post rather than just "other forms of treatment" in case someone doesn't initially read the article (like me). Mirror therapy isn't well known even in the amputee world, and it will help the vast majority of amputees. There are also surgical options, albeit more invasive, but they don't affect anything like motor skills since you're already missing the limb. The article didn't mention that this person wasn't a candidate for that surgery. I wonder why not? After that many years of pain, you would think that they would be a candidate for surgery. I just don't see what the VR is doing that the Mirror is not.

Re:Easier solution (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about a year ago | (#46350331)

I just don't see what the VR is doing that the Mirror is not.

From the abstract:

Moreover, this strategy disregards the actual effort made by the patient to produce phantom motions.

IE. he thinks it; it doesn't happen; the mirror box illusion is broken.

give until it stops hurting mercy = justice now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46346931)

us imaginary semi-chosens never saw us coming? same banks, pr firms & WMD on credit cabals who supplied hitler are still in operation? here? egads, no wonder the don't ask don't tell symbull is so important? today we're going to interview (in abstention) the WMD cabalists & zion itself. try to ask questions that are on topic, as many as you'd like to hear lies about......

A Little Too Late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46347047)

Unfortunately, this breakthrough comes on the heels of the death of my grandfather.

He recently lost a limb due to complications arising from Nazi medical experimentation in WWII. The phantom limb issues he was facing were very debilitating.

Hmm. (1)

Minwee (522556) | about a year ago | (#46347143)

there's only a single test subject

His name wouldn't happen to be Gilbert Gilgamesh Hamilton [wikipedia.org] , would it?

Can't help but remember this (4, Insightful)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about a year ago | (#46347277)

'How you doing, Dixie?'
'I'm dead, Case. Got enough time in on this Hosaka to
figure that one.'
'How's it feel?'
'It doesn't.'
'Bother you?'
'What bothers me is, nothin' does.'
'How's that?'
'Had me this buddy in the Russian camp, Siberia, his thumb
was frostbit. Medics came by and they cut it off. Month later
he's tossin' all night. Elroy, I said, what's eatin' you? Goddam
thumb's itchin', he says. So I told him, scratch it. McCoy, he
says, it's the other goddam thumb.' When the construct laughed,
it came through as something else, not laughter, but a stab of
cold down Case's spine. 'Do me a favor, boy.'
'What's that, Dix?'
'This scam of yours, when it's over, you erase this goddam


And when they build the prosthetic ... (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a year ago | (#46347507)

Sounds like, in the process of creating the virtual-reality hand model, they've also identified, extracted, and processed EXACTLY the signals necessary to operate a prosthetic.

This gives us the expectation that with the cybernetic prosthetic in place the phantom limb pain may not be a problem, as well.

(Of course that's presuming the summary is correct and it is confirmed.)

Will this help Miles O'Brien? (1)

tekrat (242117) | about a year ago | (#46347535)

Miles just had part of his arm amputated after a slight accident packing up equipment. The former CNN science correspondent is currently working for PBS...
http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/25/... [cnn.com]

Re:Will this help Miles O'Brien? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46348815)

Here, I thought you meant this guy:

Good News for Oculus Rift (1)

BisuDagger (3458447) | about a year ago | (#46347615)

Now there may be a use for wearing a device over your entire head.

I had phantom limb syndrome... (1)

Slartibartfast (3395) | about a year ago | (#46348215)

Given the circumstances, you'd think testing would be a bit easier than they're making it out to be. I was asleep in a tent; it was about an hour before sunrise: just enough light to tell that there *was* light, but not to see anything. The sleeping back was a little too short for me -- had one arm at my side, and the other sprawled outward. I tried to pull it back in to the sleeping bag, where it was warm... and it wouldn't come. Which kinda freaked me out. I reached out for it with my other arm -- and it wasn't there. Which really freaked me out. Finally -- assuming I hadn't missed a truly traumatic bear attack in my sleep -- I decided it must still be attached to my body, so with my other arm, I went to my shoulder, and felt on down, only to discover it was completely *under* me, and 100% asleep.

A couple of years later, I read in Scientific American about how scientists were able to simulate phantom limb syndrome by doing essentially the same thing. So with that being said, you'd think simply putting folks' limbs to sleep would really assist in testing this stuff, instead of having a sample size of freaking *one*.


Re:I had phantom limb syndrome... (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#46350169)

Unfortunately, the problem was probably not limited availability of suitable subjects. More likely it was funding.

Vilayanur Ramachandran disagrees (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about a year ago | (#46349281)

In the Ted Video (link below) he claims to have treated phantom limb pain with a mirror. Yes, a chap mirror. No expensive VR.

Ted Talk: Vilayanur Ramachandran [ted.com]

Re:Vilayanur Ramachandran disagrees (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about a year ago | (#46350387)

His results were limited, and VR/AR was always the way forward, and I think he may have even said that himself on several occasions.
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