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#23 - Greetings From the Lab

When a Brain Remembers How to Control Missing Limbs

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Amputees' brains remember missing hands even years after (Oxford University)

Researchers at Oxford University have found that people who had their hands amputated—even decades earlier—still maintain the representation of those hands in their brain. The findings of their study, published in the journal eLIFE, could have implications for the control of next-generation prosthetics.

This team of scientists used an ultra-high power (7 Tesla) MRI scanner to look at brain activity in two people, each of whom had their left hand amputated, one 25 and one 31 years ago. Both still experienced vivid phantom sensations. The scientists also looked at brain activity in 11 people who retained both hands and were right-handed. Each person was asked to move individual fingers on their left hand.

The results showed that the primary somatosensory cortex gets activated in a similar pattern when comparing the two groups. Trying to move the fingers on the missing hands activated their respective representation in the brain, though the strength of that activation was reduced in the two people without hands.


About the Author

Celia Sampol has been a journalist for 15 years. She worked in Brussels and Washington for national media (Agence France Presse, Liberation). She's the editor-in-chief of NauticExpo e-magazine.

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