SciCombinator

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Concept: Amputation

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Following the amputation of a limb, many amputees report that they can still vividly perceive its presence despite conscious knowledge that it is not physically there. However, our ability to probe the mental representation of this experience is limited by the intractable and often distressing pain associated with amputation. Here, we present a method for eliciting phantom-like experiences in non-amputees using a variation of the rubber hand illusion in which a finger has been removed from the rubber hand. An interpretative phenomenological analysis revealed that the structure of this experience shares a wide range of sensory attributes with subjective reports of phantom limb experience. For example, when the space where the ring finger should have been on the rubber hand was stroked, 93% of participants (i.e., 28/30) reported the vivid presence of a finger that they could not see and a total of 57% (16/28) of participants who felt that the finger was present reported one or more additional sensory qualities such as tingling or numbness (25%; 7/28) and alteration in the perceived size of the finger (50%; 14/28). These experiences indicate the adaptability of body experience and share some characteristics of the way that phantom limbs are described. Participants attributed changes to the shape and size of their “missing” finger to the way in which the experimenter mimed stroking in the area occupied by the missing finger. This alteration of body perception is similar to the phenomenon of telescoping experienced by people with phantom limbs and suggests that our sense of embodiment not only depends on internal body representations but on perceptual information coming from peripersonal space.

Concepts: Perception, Sense, Mind, Amputation, Proprioception, Philosophy of perception, Phantom limb, Illusion

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INTRODUCTION: Mycotic aneurysms are rarely listed among the possible complications of osteomyelitis of the long bones. To the best of our knowledge this is the first case of chronic osteomyelitis associated with a pathological fracture of the femur and a mycotic aneurysm of the femoral artery. CASE PRESENTATION: We present the case of a 13-year-old Ugandan boy who was referred to our hospital with chronic osteomyelitis associated with a pathological fracture of the right femur and a mycotic aneurysm of the femoral artery. He underwent a successful above-knee amputation and is currently undergoing rehabilitation. CONCLUSIONS: Aneurysms associated with chronic osteomyelitis of the long bones are very rare. However, in Africa, where people often still believe in crude traditional remedies, they should be considered among the possible diagnoses especially where acute injuries of the limbs are massaged and manipulated.

Concepts: Bone, Hip fracture, Atherosclerosis, Medical terms, Aneurysm, Amputation, Thigh, Osteomyelitis

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Restoration of touch after hand amputation is a desirable feature of ideal prostheses. Here, we show that texture discrimination can be artificially provided in human subjects by implementing a neuromorphic real-time mechano-neuro-transduction (MNT), which emulates to some extent the firing dynamics of SA1 cutaneous afferents. The MNT process was used to modulate the temporal pattern of electrical spikes delivered to the human median nerve via percutaneous microstimulation in four intact subjects and via implanted intrafascicular stimulation in one transradial amputee. Both approaches allowed the subjects to reliably discriminate spatial coarseness of surfaces as confirmed also by a hybrid neural model of the median nerve. Moreover, MNT-evoked EEG activity showed physiologically plausible responses that were superimposable in time and topography to the ones elicited by a natural mechanical tactile stimulation. These findings can open up novel opportunities for sensory restoration in the next generation of neuro-prosthetic hands.

Concepts: Sensory system, Somatosensory system, Amputation, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Prosthesis, Proprioception, Hand, Thumb

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The hand area of the primary somatosensory cortex contains detailed finger topography, thought to be shaped and maintained by daily life experience. Here we utilise phantom sensations and ultra high-field neuroimaging to uncover preserved, though latent, representation of amputees' missing hand. We show that representation of the missing hand’s individual fingers persists in the primary somatosensory cortex even decades after arm amputation. By demonstrating stable topography despite amputation, our finding questions the extent to which continued sensory input is necessary to maintain organisation in sensory cortex, thereby reopening the question what happens to a cortical territory once its main input is lost. The discovery of persistent digit topography of amputees' missing hand could be exploited for the development of intuitive and fine-grained control of neuroprosthetics, requiring neural signals of individual digits.

Concepts: Brain, Sense, Somatosensory system, Amputation, Proprioception, Finger, Somatosensory cortex, Phantom limb

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Acquired nystagmus, a highly symptomatic consequence of damage to the substrates of oculomotor control, often is resistant to pharmacotherapy. Although heterogeneous in its neural cause, its expression is unified at the effector-the eye muscles themselves-where physical damping of the oscillation offers an alternative approach. Because direct surgical fixation would immobilize the globe, action at a distance is required to damp the oscillation at the point of fixation, allowing unhindered gaze shifts at other times. Implementing this idea magnetically, herein we describe the successful implantation of a novel magnetic oculomotor prosthesis in a patient.

Concepts: Eye, Amputation, Harmonic oscillator, Pupil, Simple harmonic motion

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BACKGROUND: Paralysis or amputation of an arm results in the loss of the ability to orient the hand and grasp, manipulate, and carry objects, functions that are essential for activities of daily living. Brain-machine interfaces could provide a solution to restoring many of these lost functions. We therefore tested whether an individual with tetraplegia could rapidly achieve neurological control of a high-performance prosthetic limb using this type of an interface. METHODS: We implanted two 96-channel intracortical microelectrodes in the motor cortex of a 52-year-old individual with tetraplegia. Brain-machine-interface training was done for 13 weeks with the goal of controlling an anthropomorphic prosthetic limb with seven degrees of freedom (three-dimensional translation, three-dimensional orientation, one-dimensional grasping). The participant’s ability to control the prosthetic limb was assessed with clinical measures of upper limb function. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01364480. FINDINGS: The participant was able to move the prosthetic limb freely in the three-dimensional workspace on the second day of training. After 13 weeks, robust seven-dimensional movements were performed routinely. Mean success rate on target-based reaching tasks was 91·6% (SD 4·4) versus median chance level 6·2% (95% CI 2·0-15·3). Improvements were seen in completion time (decreased from a mean of 148 s [SD 60] to 112 s [6]) and path efficiency (increased from 0·30 [0·04] to 0·38 [0·02]). The participant was also able to use the prosthetic limb to do skilful and coordinated reach and grasp movements that resulted in clinically significant gains in tests of upper limb function. No adverse events were reported. INTERPRETATION: With continued development of neuroprosthetic limbs, individuals with long-term paralysis could recover the natural and intuitive command signals for hand placement, orientation, and reaching, allowing them to perform activities of daily living. FUNDING: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Institutes of Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, and UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Function, Median, Dimension, Amputation, Upper limb, Prosthesis, Limbs

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Brachial plexus injuries can permanently impair hand function, yet present surgical reconstruction provides only poor results. Here, we present for the first time bionic reconstruction; a combined technique of selective nerve and muscle transfers, elective amputation, and prosthetic rehabilitation to regain hand function.

Concepts: Surgery, Injury, Amputation, Median nerve, Brachial plexus, Axillary artery, Plexus, Brachial plexus injury

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Touch perception on the fingers and hand is essential for fine motor control, contributes to our sense of self, allows for effective communication, and aids in our fundamental perception of the world. Despite increasingly sophisticated mechatronics, prosthetic devices still do not directly convey sensation back to their wearers. We show that implanted peripheral nerve interfaces in two human subjects with upper limb amputation provided stable, natural touch sensation in their hands for more than 1 year. Electrical stimulation using implanted peripheral nerve cuff electrodes that did not penetrate the nerve produced touch perceptions at many locations on the phantom hand with repeatable, stable responses in the two subjects for 16 and 24 months. Patterned stimulation intensity produced a sensation that the subjects described as natural and without “tingling,” or paresthesia. Different patterns produced different types of sensory perception at the same location on the phantom hand. The two subjects reported tactile perceptions they described as natural tapping, constant pressure, light moving touch, and vibration. Changing average stimulation intensity controlled the size of the percept area; changing stimulation frequency controlled sensation strength. Artificial touch sensation improved the subjects' ability to control grasping strength of the prosthesis and enabled them to better manipulate delicate objects. Thus, electrical stimulation through peripheral nerve electrodes produced long-term sensory restoration after limb loss.

Concepts: Perception, Sense, Somatosensory system, Amputation, Prosthesis, Artificial organ, Proprioception, Illusion

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The tips of mammalian digits can regenerate after amputation, like those of amphibians. It is unknown why this capacity is limited to the area associated with the nail. Here we show that nail stem cells (NSCs) reside in the proximal nail matrix and that the mechanisms governing NSC differentiation are coupled directly with their ability to orchestrate digit regeneration. Early nail progenitors undergo Wnt-dependent differentiation into the nail. After amputation, this Wnt activation is required for nail regeneration and also for attracting nerves that promote mesenchymal blastema growth, leading to the regeneration of the digit. Amputations proximal to the Wnt-active nail progenitors result in failure to regenerate the nail or digit. Nevertheless, β-catenin stabilization in the NSC region induced their regeneration. These results establish a link between NSC differentiation and digit regeneration, and suggest that NSCs may have the potential to contribute to the development of novel treatments for amputees.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Stem cell, Regeneration, Amputation, Gangrene, Toe

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Phantom pain after arm amputation is widely believed to arise from maladaptive cortical reorganization, triggered by loss of sensory input. We instead propose that chronic phantom pain experience drives plasticity by maintaining local cortical representations and disrupting inter-regional connectivity. Here we show that, while loss of sensory input is generally characterized by structural and functional degeneration in the deprived sensorimotor cortex, the experience of persistent pain is associated with preserved structure and functional organization in the former hand area. Furthermore, consistent with the isolated nature of phantom experience, phantom pain is associated with reduced inter-regional functional connectivity in the primary sensorimotor cortex. We therefore propose that contrary to the maladaptive model, cortical plasticity associated with phantom pain is driven by powerful and long-lasting subjective sensory experience, such as triggered by nociceptive or top-down inputs. Our results prompt a revisiting of the link between phantom pain and brain organization.

Concepts: Brain, Structure, Cerebral cortex, Pain, Amputation, Organization, Phantom limb, Phantom pain