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Exp Brain Res. 2004 Jan;154(1):97-102. Epub 2003 Oct 14.

Remote activation of referred phantom sensation and cortical reorganization in human upper extremity amputees.

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Department of Medical Psychology, Charité, Humboldt-University Berlin, Germany.


Phantom limb sensation, whether painful or not, frequently occurs after peripheral nerve lesions. It can be elicited by stimulating body parts adjacent to the amputation site (referred to as phantom sensation) and it is often similar in quality to the stimulation at the remote site. The present study induced referred phantom sensations in two upper limb amputees. Neuroelectric source imaging (ESI) as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to assess reorganization in primary somatosensory cortex (SI). Whereas recent studies found mislocalization of sensation related to stimulation mainly in regions adjacent and ipsilateral to the amputation site, we report here the elicitation of phantom sensation in the arm by stimulation in the lower body part both ipsi- and contralateral to the amputation in two arm amputees. The fMRI evaluation of one patient showed no shift in the location of the foot whereas ESI revealed major reorganization of the mouth region in primary somatosensory cortex in both patients. These data suggest that cortical structures other than SI might be contributing to the phenomenon of referred sensation. Candidate structures are the thalamus, secondary somatosensory cortex, posterior parietal cortex and prefrontal cortex.

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