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Virtual Reality Eases Phantom Limb Pain

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Testing at the China Rehabilitation Research Center.

A new system devised by researchers at Aalborg University shows that virtual reality technology can trick an amputee's brain into thinking that it is still in control of a missing limb.

Credit: Bo Geng

Researchers at Aalborg University in Denmark have developed a system that uses virtual reality (VR) technology to relieve sufferers of phantom limb pain.

The method involves patients wearing VR goggles and a glove, while electrodes are positioned on their residual limb to stimulate it with small tiny electrical impulses in an attempt to regenerate the sensation of the phantom hand. The amputees play different VR games in which they perform the same actions with both hands, such as gripping a pole that has to be twisted into different shapes or pushing different virtual buttons.

In testing the method at the China Rehabilitation Research Center in Beijing last fall, two out of three amputees' phantom limb pain was eased, while the third suffered phantom limb pain attacks less often.

The system currently only works with upper-body amputees, but Aalborg students are working to extend its usage for lower-body amputees.

From ScienceDaily
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