Specialized Brain Training Relieves Phantom Pain

July 20, 2020

Pain is not uncommon for patients who have undergone amputation, and without effective treatment, pain can linger for years.

NEWS BRIEF

Researchers from Osaka University in Japan found robotic brain training can lessen the impact of phantom limb pain that often lingers following radical amputation or injury. After one session of brain computer-interface (BCI) technology training, patients said their pain reduced by as much as 30%. Pain relief lasted for up to 5 days after completion of the session. Study results were reported online in the journal Neurology.1

In a randomized single-blinded crossover trial, Yanagisawa and colleagues1 looked at a cohort of 12 participants. They sought to determine whether BCI of a phantom limb image that “moves based on cortical currents estimated from magneto-encephalographic signals,” would lessen the perception of pain.

Such pain is not uncommon for patients who have undergone amputation, and without effective treatment, pain can linger for years. Thus, phantom limb pain, a known occurrence in these patients, is an important target for research in neurological, neuropsychiatric, neuroscience circles.

Dr Yanagisawa noted, "It is very difficult to intentionally activate the part of your brain that controls your right hand without actually thinking about moving that hand . . . Instead, we designed a system in which the patients did not even know they were using those parts of their brains."

A PDF of the article can be found here.

Reference

1. Yanagisawa T, Fukuma R, Seymour B, et al. BCI training to move a virtual hand reduces phantom limb pain. A randomized crossover trial. Neurology. 2020;95:1-e10. Accessed July 17, 2020. https://n.neurology.org/content/early/2020/07/16/WNL.0000000000009858