• Sweden's news in English
 

Phantom limb patients treated in virtual reality

Oliver Gee · 26 Feb 2014, 11:34

Published: 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
Tax changes could cut costs for Swedish firms
Sweden is home to many of the world's successful startups, such as Spotify. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT

Tax changes could cut costs for Swedish firms

11 hours ago

UPDATED: Swedish Enterprise and Innovation Minister Mikael Damberg has told The Local about his action plan to turn Stockholm into the top startup city in the world. But critics of his proposals say they are too vague.

Euro 2016
‘I get a kick out of doing things that hurt you’
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the press conference on Wednesday. Photo: Pontus Lindahl/TT

‘I get a kick out of doing things that hurt you’

6 hours ago

Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has caused a stir after mouthing off in a press conference when a Swedish journalist asked about his business interests, ahead of his national side's Euro 2016 qualifier with Russia.

Hairy Swedish panties sew up artist's reputation
The hairy knickers. Photo: Private

Hairy Swedish panties sew up artist's reputation

7 hours ago

A pair of knickers made from thousands of strands of human hair has knitted overnight success for its maker. Swedish craftswoman Nina Sparr tells The Local that her efforts mirror a traditional craft that has been popular in her family for centuries.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

8 hours ago

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Secret anti-immigration blogger's name exposed
A file image of a Swede using the internet. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Secret anti-immigration blogger's name exposed

12 hours ago

UPDATED: 'Julia Caesar', an anonymous right-wing blogger who has blasted Swedish journalists for writing an "epoch of lies" about the benefits of immigration, is herself a former reporter for Sweden's biggest broadsheet, Dagens Nyheter, according to a Swedish tabloid.

Plea for help in hunt for Swedish woman's killer
Ida Johansson, who was found dead on a running track in Upplands Väsby. Photo: Polisen

Plea for help in hunt for Swedish woman's killer

16 hours ago

Swedish police have released a picture of the 21-year-old jogger murdered on a running track almost a month ago as her mother prepares to make a television appeal.

Swedish museum makes way for iconic train
The iconic Swiss locomotive. Photo: SBB

Swedish museum makes way for iconic train

15 hours ago

Railway buffs in Sweden are on track for a treat as a rare Swiss locomotive is set to roll into a Swedish transport museum in the coming days to celebrate a century of electric trains in the Nordic country.

The Local List
Seven bizarre Swedish academic traditions
Student life in Lund, southern Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/SCANPIX

Seven bizarre Swedish academic traditions

16 hours ago

As thousands of students flock to Sweden's university towns for the start of the semester, The Local guides you through the top academic traditions you need to know about.

Swede wakes up with Justin Bieber on buttock
The Swede says he can't remember how he ended up with Bieber's name on his backside. Photo: stamminen/Instagram

Swede wakes up with Justin Bieber on buttock

1 day ago

A man in central Sweden has more reason than most to regret a drunken night out - after waking up with Justin Bieber's name on his backside.

Video
Video of Swedish longboarder goes viral
Ishtar Tussilago taking a tight corner in the Norwegian mountains. Photo: Screengrab

Video of Swedish longboarder goes viral

1 day ago

Stunning footage of Swedish longboarder Ishtar Bäcklund and fellow riders skating down the Norwegian mountains has gone viral, pulling in over 190,000 views on Vimeo.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
VIDEO: Swedish longboarder builds dreams with viral film
National
Swedish billionaire blasted for 'lonely' Twitter rant
Gallery
Property of the week: Stuverum, Västervik
National
Swedish ship rescues 5,295 refugees
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Blog updates

28 August

Editor’s blog, August 28th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, It was all glitz and glamour in Sweden this week as Stockholm Fashion Week got..." READ »

 

18 August

Preteritum eller presens perfekt? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hello everyone, It’s grammar time ! I got an interesting question about the past tense vs present..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: August 28th-30th
National
'Sweden Democrats will run the country'
National
Swedish bin men hailed as heroes after rescuing doomed kitten
National
This Swedish teen was told she was 'too big' to be a model
Sponsored Article
'It gives you the guts to believe in yourself'
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th
Sponsored Article
Nine places where Stockholm needs more English
National
Rescued baby lemur gets new Stockholm home
National
Stockholm Fashion Week turns island into Mars
Gallery
Property of the week: Stora Essingen, Stockholm
National
Swedish crayfish thieves caught red handed by officers
National
Veil soon to be lifted on new Millennium sequel novel
Gallery
People-watching: August 21st - 22nd
Cecilia Larsson Lantz/imagebank.sweden.se
Presented by Stockholm Academic Forum
International students welcomed to Stockholm
National
The Bridge: What does the third season have in store?
National
Lucky escape for Swedes after 'dead' bear launches attack
National
Syrian asylum seeker comic: 'We don't prefer Sweden any more'
Lifestyle
Baby joy for Swedish crime queen and her wrestler boyfriend
National
Soldier accused of faking first Isis attack in Sweden
National
Fire alert as Sweden sizzles in summer heatwave
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th
National
Meet the Swede who is crazy for Norway’s mass killer
National
Swede's review of night in drunk tank goes viral
National
VIDEO: Swedish teen melts hearts with this incredible Idol audition
Society
What's a Swedish crayfish party?
National
UN: Sweden can't be left to shoulder migrant crisis alone
Gallery
Property of the week: Skogås, Huddinge
National
Men outstrip women for first time
Society
IN PICTURES: Wooden town resembles 'war zone' after huge fire
Gallery
People-watching: August 14th-16th
Sport
Swedish referee shuts viral Facebook page explaining his decisions
Business & Money
A studio in Stockholm or a castle in the countryside?
National
How did twelve skeletons end up beneath a Swedish castle?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th
National
Millennium sequel author labelled 'grave robber'
National
Two metre long python stops traffic in Malmö
National
IN PICTURES: Shoppers pay tribute to Ikea stabbing victims
Technology
Danish 'monster' pulled out of Swedish waters
National
Bizarre baby baptism for hockey fan
Gallery
Property of the week: Löderup, Ystad
Sponsored Article
Getting pregnant the Swedish way
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
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

3,171
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se