Surface Stimulation as a Potential Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain

Student Author(s)

John Boss
Carson Tobias

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Katherine Polasek

Document Type


Event Date



Phantom limb pain is a post-amputation phenomenon where an amputee experiences painful sensations in their missing limb. We hypothesize that by eliciting natural sensations in the missing limb; phantom limb may be reduced or eliminated. Nerves in both the upper and lower extremities were tested. Stimulation was applied to the median, ulnar, and fibular nerves on able-bodied subjects. The hand and foot sensation thresholds as well as the maximum stimulation were determined to define an optimal stimulating parameter space. Stimulation values within that area were tested at 50μs, 100μs and 500μs pulse widths, all at 25%, 50%, and 75% of the range between the hand and foot thresholds and maximum stimulation. An amplitude of 60% of the optimal stimulating parameter space was used while a combination of frequencies, burst lengths, and inter-burst lengths were varied in hopes of eliciting a natural sensation such as tapping or pressing. The type, magnitude, and location of sensation were recorded for each trial. A tapping or pulsing sensation was achieved in both the upper and lower extremity when the frequency was decreased to 1-4 Hz, while the different combination of burst lengths and interburst lengths did not result in a noticeable difference of types of sensation.


This research was supported by the Hope College Dean for the Natural and Applied Sciences Office and a grant to Hope College from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Undergraduate Science Education Program.

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