Scientists have developed a virtual reality (VR) technology that can relieve the sensation of phantom limb pain by tricking the brain into thinking that the amputated limb is still attached to the body.
“The tactile representation of different body parts are arranged in the brain in a sort of map,” said Bo Geng, from the Aalborg University in Denmark, “If the brain no longer receives feedback from an area, it tries to reprogramme its signal reception map. That is the most common conception of how phantom limb pain occurs.” Tests have shown that phantom limb pain can be relieved if the brain is tricked into thinking that.
If a mirror is placed at an angle in front of the chest, you can create the visual illusion that the body is symmetrical. This method has proven effective in a number of amputees and is the basis for the new VR technology. By using VR, researchers believe they can create an experience of being present in a 3D world where you can move around freely, hold things and even interact with them.
“With virtual reality, there is a much better chance of creating a convincing alternative reality,” Ms. Geng said.
With the use of VR goggles and a glove, the artificial world is created. Small electrodes placed on the residual limb are used to stimulate the stump with electrical impulses. This has helped researchers in recreating the sensation of the phantom hand.