• 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Beggar hit in exhaust fume 'attack'
Exhaust fumes. Photo:Shutterstock.

Beggar hit in exhaust fume 'attack'

A beggar in southern Sweden was forced to flee in terror after she was enveloped with thick black smoke, part of an apparent attack that was captured on video and spread via social media. READ  

Elections 2014
Sweden opens the gates for election voting
Don't forget to vote. Photo:Shutterstock.

Sweden opens the gates for election voting

If you're busy on September the 14th, or simply can't wait to have your voice heard, Wednesday morning marked the opening of the polling booths for early-bird voters. READ  

Whooping cough alert after two infants die

Whooping cough alert after two infants die

The Swedish Public Health Agency has urged parents to be aware of the dangers of the infectious whooping cough disease after two babies have recently died from the illness. READ  

Chuck Berry wins 2014 Polar music prize
Chuck Berry performing in Oslo in 2007. Hakon Mosvold Larsen /Scanpix Norway

Chuck Berry wins 2014 Polar music prize

The Polar music prizes were handed out in Stockholm on Tuesday night, with Chuck Berry and theatre director Peter Sellars sharing one million kronor ($153,000) in prizes. READ  

Swedish store scraps high heels for toddlers
The shoes pictured are indeed the shoes in question. Photo: Joakim Loamotte/TT

Swedish store scraps high heels for toddlers

UPDATED: A social media storm has seen a supermarket chain recalling its heeled children's shoes. The man behind the storm says other countries could learn from how seriously Sweden takes equality. READ  

My Swedish Career
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Scarlet Vikarby and her husband Jimmy. Photo: Private

'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'

American Scarlet Vikarby owns a home theatre installation business. She talks to The Local about owning a company, how being a woman can be a game changer, and how to overcome reserved Swedes. READ  

Elections 2014
Why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
The Alliance leaders. Photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty

Sweden's prime minister got his claws out on Tuesday, accusing the opposition of "promising everything to everyone". With the elections just weeks away, an expert tells us why the campaigning is heating up. READ  

Elderly Swede unhurt after train runs over her
A freight train in Sweden. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/TT

Elderly Swede unhurt after train runs over her

An elderly woman decided to take a stroll on the Swedish railway tracks on Tuesday afternoon, for no apparent reason. After being run over by a freight train the woman emerged completely unharmed. READ  

Elections 2014
Åkesson promises cuts to Sweden's immigration
Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Åkesson promises cuts to Sweden's immigration

The Sweden Democrat party presented its 105 election proposals on Tuesday, with an estimated cost of 63 billion kronor in 2015. The manifesto focused on increasing Swedish welfare and limiting immigration. READ  

Reinfeldt 'would support' anti-terror laws
Fredrik Reinfeldt. Photo: Bertil Ericsson/TT

Reinfeldt 'would support' anti-terror laws

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said on Tuesday that the government would support new laws punishing those who travel abroad to engage in terrorist activities - or even those with plans to do so. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
Blog updates

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 

25 August

The Dollar Store (Blogweiser) »

"A dollar store in Sweden. Blog post: http://t.co/tNuuvcP1q0 #USD #greenbacks #sweden #sverige pic.twitter.com/RHFAYf7U1k — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) August 23, 2014 There’s a chain here in Sweden called The DollarStore. This name always stood out to me in a country where they don’t use dollars. I went there for the first time this weekend. They actually accepted greenbacks..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Gallery
See the destruction from the southern Sweden floods
Politics
'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'
Society
Swedes celebrate first day of smelly fish season
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching August 20th
Society
Did you know the Bronx in NYC was named after a Swede?
Politics
"Iraq reminds me of the Yugoslav wars. It's the same story."
Society
Swedes slam Danes for 'racist' art
National
Majority of Swedes favour more or just as many refugees
Society
Lock your bathrooms: Swedish toilet invader on the the loose
Politics
'Assange will not leave until safe'
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Society
Serial chicken smuggler caught at Norway border. Again.
Society
This gold coin may be the key to solving a Swedish massacre
Shutterstock
Lifestyle
The Swedish mentor (and why you may need one)
Politics
Reinfeldt calls for tolerance to refugees
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
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

723
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