Surface Stimulation to Alleviate Phantom Limb Pain: Waveform to Elicit Tapping

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Katharine Polasek

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Phantom limb pain occurs to some degree in 50-80% of amputees with no known successful treatments. The overall goal of this project is to use surface electrical stimulation to alleviate phantom limb pain. A leading hypothesis suggests that cortical reorganization (the remapping of the somatosensory cortex) could lead to phantom limb pain. To potentially reverse this, the median and ulnar nerves will be stimulated in hopes of keeping their respective regions in the cortex receiving information from the hand. Previous work has found that reliable sensation could be obtained in the hand using electrical stimulation of nerves at the elbow, but that it most often felt like ‘tingling’ or ‘buzzing’. In an attempt to evoke natural sensation, two stimulation types were created. After preliminary testing, both stimulation types produced a tapping sensation. Both forms of stimulation were found to be more pleasant than standard, non-modulating stimulation. Future work will include comparing the two stimulation types and deciding which produces the most natural sensation.


This material is based upon work supported by the Hope College Dean for Natural and Applied Sciences.

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