August 31, 2016
Even 3 decades following hand amputation, the brain maintains an accurate representation of missing fingers, according to data from the University of Oxford. Researchers suggest this could have implications for the control of novel prostheses.
“It has been thought that the hand ‘picture’ in the brain, located in the primary somatosensory cortex, could only be maintained by regular sensory input from the hand,” Tamar Makin, PhD, team leader on the project, said in a press release. “In fact, textbooks teach that the picture will be overwritten if its primary input stops. If that was the case, people who have undergone hand amputation would show extremely low or no activity related to its original focus in that brain area — in our case, the hand. However, we also know that people experience phantom sensations from amputated body parts, to the extent that someone asked to move a finger can ‘feel’ that movement.