Preliminary Evidence for Training-Induced Changes of Morphology and Phantom Limb Pain

Author: Preissler, S.; Thielemann, D.; Dietrich, C.; Hofmann, G.O.; Miltner, W.H.R.; Weiss, T.

Description: The aim of this study was to investigate whether a special prosthetic training in phantom limb pain patients aimed at increasing the functional use of the prosthesis leads to neural morphological plasticity of brain structures and a reduction in phantom limb pain. For chronic pain disorders, it was shown that morphological alterations due to pain might become at least partially reversed by pain therapies. Phantom limb pain is a chronic pain disorder that is frequently followed by neural plasticity of anatomical brain structures. In our study, 10 patients with amputation of the upper limb participated in a two-week training with a myoelectric prosthesis with somatosensory feedback. Grip strength was fed back with electrocutaneous stimulus patterns applied to the stump. Phantom limb pain was assessed before and after the two-week training. Similarly, two T1 weighted MRI scans were conducted for longitudinal thickness analyses of cortical brain structures. As result of this treatment, patients experienced a reduction in phantom limb pain and a gain in prosthesis functionality. Furthermore, we found a change of cortical thickness in small brain areas in the visual stream and the post-central gyrus ipsilateral to the amputation indicating morphological alterations in brain areas involved in vision and pain processing.

Subject Headings: gray matter; plasticity; prosthesis; somatosensory feedback; upper limb amputation

Keywords: Preliminary Evidence for Training-Induced Changes of Morphology and Phantom Limb Pain

Publication year: 2017

Journal or book title: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Volume: 11


Pages: 319

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 2945