Surface Stimulation as a Potential Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain
Dr. Katharine Polasek, Engineering
Phantom Limb Pain, a pain or discomfort in the missing limb, is experienced by the majority of amputees. We hypothesize that by eliciting a non-painful sensation in the missing limb, phantom limb pain may be reduced or eliminated. The overall goal of this project is to develop a therapy that consists of an electrically activated tapping sensation in the missing hand or foot combined with a robot tapping on the prosthesis. The goal of this project was to compare the electrically activated sensation with actual touch. The median or ulnar nerve was stimulated with the goal of creating a realistic tapping sensation in the subject’s hand and the common peroneal nerve was stimulated with the goal of eliciting sensation in the foot. The rubber hand and foot illusions were then used to quantify the authenticity of the stimulated sensation. A variety of rubber hand/foot illusion conditions were performed on each subject: three traditional trials where a human investigator tapped on both the real hand and the rubber hand and one artificial trial where surface electrical stimulation evoked a tapping sensation in the real limb while the robot tapped on the rubber limb. The results of the traditional and artificial methods were compared to determine if a significant difference was present. Data collected included: questionnaire results, proprioceptive drift, and temperature changes of the arm/leg. A total of twenty five rubber hand illusion trials were completed. Results demonstrate that both physical touch and artificial sensations were able to evoke a more realistic illusion than the control condition. However, sensations evoked by electrical stimulation were not as realistic as those produced by physical touch. The rubber foot illusion trials are still ongoing, but preliminary analysis shows that results are trending towards a positive illusion for both traditional and artificial conditions.
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