The fascinating science of phantom limbs - Joshua W. Pate
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You may have heard of ‘neuroplasticity’. This is the ability of neurons (nerve cells) to change and connect differently. Put simply, everything in your brain is always changing all the time—including your homunculus. Your homunculus is the part of your brain that acts like a map of your body. It is a map that changes depending on the messages that the brain receives. For example, representation of the left hand is larger in violinists than in non-violinists.
The nervous system is extremely complex and there is still much to be discovered about it. Recent research suggests that people suffering from persistent pain can benefit from reconceptualising pain; understanding more about what pain is, why pain exists, and how pain is experienced. Part of this is understanding exemplar types of pain, such as phantom pain, in order to better understand concepts common to all pain. For example, studies on educational interventions for pain (including information about the “map” in your brain) have shown that this can improve pain, patient knowledge of pain, and function. It can also reduce psychosocial factors, enhance movement, and minimize healthcare utilization. To learn more about pain and its management, books such as Explain Pain and Manage Your Pain are highly recommended, and keep an eye out for more videos and resources in the future.
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