• Sweden edition
 
Phantom limb patients treated in virtual reality
Photo: Chalmers University

Phantom limb patients treated in virtual reality

Published: 26 Feb 2014 11:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 26 Feb 2014 11:34 GMT+01:00

In Sweden, around 50 arm amputations and 500 leg amputations are performed each year. Researchers say roughly 70 percent of people amputated on feel pain where their limbs once were, a phenomenon known as Phantom Limb Pain. 
 
Now researchers at Gothenburg's Chalmers University have turned to virtual reality computer games in an effort to help those suffering. 
 
The computer games, in which the player simulates movements that are broadcast on the screen, is a sophisticated version of the mirror therapy discovered in the nineties in which patients saw their other arm or leg as a reflection of their remaining limb. 
 
But even though mirror therapy is cheap and easy, this more primitive approach is limited as it doesn't work for every amputee, and is impossible for dual-amputees. 
 
Max Ortiz Catalan, a Mexican researcher and PhD candidate at Chalmers University, explained that there are still many grey areas when it comes to why missing limbs can cause pain. 
 
"No one knows why Phantom Limb Pain is caused," he told The Local.
 
"The leading theory is that the brain map of your own body changes after an amputation. This means that amputees, whether it's a limb, breast, nose... anything, they can suffer of phantom pain. What we are trying to do is potentially restore the original map, by allowing the patient to use the missing limb, and therefore get rid of the pain."
 
Researchers had the idea to use virtual reality games to allow patients to use their limbs again. Their first guinea pig was a man missing his right arm below the elbow. He was rigged up to a car racing game where he found he could use his arm again by turning what would have been his right wrist on the steering wheel (see video below).
 
 
(A) Surface electrodes and a fiduciary marker placed on stump. (B) Environment captured by webcam and displayed on computer screen. (C) Patient playing a racing game by phantom motions. (D) Patient using the Target Achievement Control (TAC) test as a rehabilitation tool.
 
The patient could control the car because the relevant motor areas in the brain were reactivated, while the man's brain was tricked into believing his arm was still there via the visual feedback on the screen. More importantly, his pain which had been constant and extreme for decades was drastically reduced.
 
"He was extremely happy, as you could imagine. He hadn't used his arm in 48 years," Ortiz Catalan explained. "And that's exactly why we do the research. It's truly rewarding to see it working like this."
 
The technology meant that muscle signals from the man's arm stump saw electrical signals in his muscles being sensed by electrodes on his skin. These signals were translated into arm movements using a set of complex algorithms. 
 
With the success of the Gothenburg patient, researchers are now extending their work to three more hospitals in Sweden and a few abroad. Researchers are set to concentrate on "the hardest cases", those being patients who do not respond to traditional methods.
 
The researchers have also developed a system they aim to release for at-home use. It is currently awaiting approval.
 

 

Related links:

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Diplomacy
US to get first female ambassador in Sweden
File photo: Athena Center for Leadership Studies

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced it was nominating the Indian-American ex-investment banker Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

BREAKING
Submarine search called off in Stockholm
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Submarine search called off in Stockholm

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. A press conference giving more details is expected at 10am. READ  

Politics
Sweden to get EU 'Christmas present'
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at an EU summit in Brussels this week. Photo: TT

Sweden to get EU 'Christmas present'

Sweden is set to get 1.2 billion kronor ($168 million) back from the EU on December 1st, according to leaked EU documents which suggest that other European countries will have to make large top-up payments this year. READ  

Science
Asteroids leave mark on Sweden
Astroids can leave marks like these. Photo: TT

Asteroids leave mark on Sweden

Some 458 million years ago, Earth was whacked in a double asteroid strike, leaving craters visible in Sweden today, space scientists have reported. READ  

New coalition
New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Green Party leader Åsa Romson. Photo: TT

New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget

UPDATED: Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-led coalition has revealed its first budget proposal, listing plans to spend more than 20 billion kronor. READ  

Royal family
Swedish royal couple set wedding date
The couple pictured in the summer. Photo: TT

Swedish royal couple set wedding date

Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, who got engaged earlier this year, have announced they will marry next June. READ  

Analysis
Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'

There is talk that the nationalist Sweden Democrats could trigger a fresh election, by rejecting the new coalition's budget. But leading Political Scientist Li Bennich Björkman tells The Local that the party is just game-playing and should be focusing on getting its fatigued leader back. READ  

Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Chocolate and liquorice are on the menu in Gothenburg this weekend. Photo: Shutterstock

What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st

A secret gig in Stockholm, a short film festival in Uppsala and a gastronomy event in Gothenburg have caught our eye this week. READ  

Science
Astronaut helps launch first student satellite
Christer Fuglesang on a previous space mission. Photo: TT

Astronaut helps launch first student satellite

Sweden's debut astronaut Christer Fuglesang is helping students at KTH Royal Institute of Technology to become the first in the country to make their own satellite and send it into space. READ  

Weather
Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow
Kiruna, in far northern Sweden, has already been hit by snow this season. Photo: TT

Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow

Sweden's weather agency has warned that up to ten centimetres of snow are on the way for Sweden. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den här?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

967
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN