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Lyndsey C's picture

phantom limbs cont'd

I am really interested in our class' evolving discussion about phantom limb pain (and pleasure). It is an interesting concept that I have not thought about much until now, but increased attention to treatment options seems to be a growing concern. To understand this topic a little better, i thought I might look up some articles online, and I missed class on thursday so I might be repeating some things, but I found a lot of interesting. One article by TOni Ray explains that "When a body part is lost the corresponding part of the brain is not able to handle the loss and rewires its circuitry to make up for the signals it was no longer receiving from the missing digit...Perhaps nerve impulses in the sensory cortex begin to course down previously untraveled pathways. The second theory is that neighboring neurons in the cortex may actually invade the territory left fallow because sensations are no longer received from the missing limb." I don't really understand why the implications for the second theory would cause a phantom sensation or why our brains would find this adaptation useful.

Next, i found an interesting discussion on cultural differences of phantom limb sensation experience. Nicola Diamond discusses several drawbacks to the western perspective regarding this subject, and i found this slightly intriguing because i had never before analyzed the perspectives used to explain this phenomenon. For example, she mentions that in some african societies, "phantoms of the body –affects/sensations and images –are not set up in contradistinction to the actual body, but are taken as bodily because they are lived as such and there is a fluidity between bodily attributions and actual bodily states. Belief that the spirit is possessing the body is fluid with images of the body, to that of trance states and muscle and nervous activity ect." This is a very distinct way of thinking as compared with our own, and I believe it stems from a presence of different types of warcraft and religious beliefs. its a wonder that such societies perceive limb loss not as a loss but as an intangible extension of the self.


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