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Madina G.'s picture

More thoughts on the Phantom Limb

I've been fascinated with Phantom Limb Pain ever since I first heard about it, but what I find even more interesting are some of the methods of treatment for it, one of which is the mirror-box method (putting a mirror in front of the amputee to trick the mind that the left/right limb still exists when they are simply looking at the opposite limb that is still attached; pain in most cases is instantaneously relieved). This treats it as a psychological disorder, however after the past few sessions of class I thought about the idea of sensory neurons and how their specific function, whether it be to sense light, heat, pain, etc., depends on what specific proteins allow for it to do so. Many patients of amputations have their limb amputated because of an accident that was causing such a degree of pain in that limb that the doctor prescribed amputation; even after the limb is gone however, the person not only continues to feel the pain but is now missing a part of their body.

Perhaps an alternative treatment could be to inhibit the proteins in the sensory neurons that are making the brain believe that the limb still exists. Do these particular sensory neurons even exist? Or is the ability to sense the state of a part of our bodies that way, an example of how we stretched our arms in class? Obviously there is some sort of sensory mechanism involved in how we can sense the state of a stretched arm, relaxed arm, etc. or else how would one sense the absence of a limb? Something to consider in addition to this is that not all amputees suffer from Phantom Limb Syndrome. Some patients are fully aware that their limb is gone and do not suffer the phantom limb pain---do these patients lack those sensory neurons that would otherwise sense the presence/absence of a limb?

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