Brain Waves Essay

752 words - 4 pages

Imagine a man – refer to him as John* – who lost his left arm after a horrible tractor accident. Shortly after his amputation, John begins feeling strange sensations where his arm previously existed, namely excruciating pain, akin to something ripping his flesh apart. Despite the empty space, he feels his arm; the sensations seem so realistic that he almost believes his arm remains attached to his shoulder. Is John mad? Obviously his left arm no longer exists, so how could he feel pain in that empty space? To the outside world, John appears crazy - a man who cannot healthily cope with the loss of his arm. However, according to Phantom in the Brain by Dr. Ramachandran, John’s sensations stem ...view middle of the document...

Patients view their body as whole, which allows them to let go of the tension or pain they experience in their phantom.
Another explanation deals with the remapping of the brain’s body map, called the cortical homunculus (26). This map, developed by Penfield, creates a visual representation of the body within the brain. For instance, certain body parts connect with different neurons in the brain. Phantom limb sufferers experience sensations on the surface of their stump, but also on other body surfaces, namely the face. Since the face is directly next to the arms on the cortical homunculus, neurons transfer from the missing arm to the face. Therefore, John, and other patients with phantoms, may feel sensations while smiling, shaving, or merely stroking their cheek; they continue to feel the presence of their phantom because touching the face triggers feeling in their missing limb.
Additionally, patients often experience pain in their phantom. For instance, John lost his arm in a horrible accident, which caused him a great deal of pain. His stump neurons may send commands to his brain without receiving proper feedback; those commands re-create the feelings of pain prior to amputation. The commands continue until the pain becomes learned behavior – a difficult cycle to break. This results in a changed internal...

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