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Orthopade. 2004 May;33(5):553-7.

[Visualisation of phantom- and backpain using imaging techniques. Implication for treatment].

[Article in German]

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Lehrstuhl Neuropsychologie an der Universität Heidelberg, Zentralinstitut für Seelische Gesundheit, Mannheim.


If patients with chronic low back pain are stimulated in the painful region, an expanded representation of the back in the primary somatosensory cortex becomes visible that increases with chronicity. This "pain memory" might play an important role in the chronicity process. In patients with phantom limb pain, e.g. subsequent to the amputation of an arm or leg, a shift in the representation of neighboring areas into the deafferented area in primary somatosensory cortex has been observed. This reorganization of functional brain maps is not present in congenital amputees or amputees without phantom limb pain. The magnitude of such pain is positively correlated with this reorganization. We present a model of phantom limb pain that assigns an important role to pre-existing chronic pain. The modulation of plasticity and phantom limb pain by anesthesiological manipulation, the use of NMDA receptor antagonists and opioids is presented. Behaviorally relevant stimulation, e.g. by the use of a myoelectric prosthesis or sensory discrimination training can also influence the cortical somatosensory pain memory. More recent studies focus also on brain areas such as the cingulate gyrus believed to be involved in the affective processing of pain.

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