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Researchers turn to VR to treat phantom limb pain

Donald Melanson, @donmelanson
November 14, 2006
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Researchers at the University of Manchester are turning to virtual reality once again, not to have another go 'round at proving whether telepathy is real or not, but to help individuals with amputated limbs recover from so-called "phantom limb pain," a sensation wherein amputees appear to feel pain in their lost limb. The treatment involves patients donning the requisite headgear and data gloves, allowing them to explore a virtual world with their missing limb restored. Patients then perform various tasks that trick the brain into thinking it can control the missing limb, something earlier studies suggested would help alleviate the often unbearable pain. While the study is definitely on the small side -- just five patients -- the researchers seem to be quite enthused with their findings, reporting that four of the subjects achieved significant reductions in pain, in one case after just a single session. Cause for further study, no doubt; let's just hope our British friends don't completely give up on their more esoteric endeavors.

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