Virtual Phantoms

Talk about visualizing!

A Reuters article describes work being done by the Advanced Interfaces Group at the University of Manchester, using virtual reality interfaces to treat phantom limb pain. Some people who have lost a limb experience extreme discomfort—the sensation that a missing hand remains tightly clenched, for example—and successful therapies seem to trick the brain into believing it has control over the “phantom limb.”

Enter virtual reality (glad it’s still good for something). According to Reuters, the process “uses a headset and sensors to transport patients into a virtual world where they see themselves with two limbs which they can control and move to do tasks and play games.” In four out of five of the patients they worked with, pain was ameliorated.

One of the best descriptions I’ve read of such disorders, BTW, is a book by the neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, which eloquently sheds light on all of brain function by an examination of various traumas that can occur. Highly recommended.

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