The developments in medical science have led to better healthcare and lower mortality rates in the world today. Today, diseases which were once among the deadliest health conditions have treatments available in almost all parts of the world and they are no longer life-threatening.
However, researchers also agree that there is still a long way to go in understanding the human body and the processes that take place in it completely. Along with controlling the rising new challenges to health, scientists, therefore, also continue their research on the body and different functions within it.
For instance, a new study from researchers at New York University and the Universities of Hamburg and Bielefeld in Germany focuses on the functioning of the brain.
More specifically, it aims to look at how the human brain interprets and processes sensations such as pain and touch.
Previously, there has not been abundant medical literature on this topic. Researchers are also not able to explain the many phenomena related to the brain and touch such as the condition of Phantom Limb Pain.
In this condition, a person feels pain in the area of the limb that has been removed or amputated. Another similar instance is Tactile hallucinations in which people feel sensations which cannot be explained or linked to any causes.
The new study aims to know more about such unexplainable health issues which could help understand them and treat them.
How Was the Study Conducted?
The majority of the previous work on this subject was either limited or done solely with people with psychological conditions.
Since people without any such issues may also experience Tactile hallucinations, the researchers included twelve to twenty healthy people in their five different experiments.
In the experiments, tactile stimulators were attached to each one of the participants. These stimulators allowed the researchers to cause sensations in two parts of the body.
After this, they questioned the patients about which part did they feel the sensation in. The same procedure was also repeated several times to achieve better results. The findings of this study can be found in the journal Current Biology.
Read the study here.
What Were the Results?
After the repetition of causing tactile stimulations, the researchers noted that in around eight percent of the cases, the participant reported feeling sensations in a part where the team had not even caused stimulations.
These results came as something new and different than the old data present on how the brain processed touch sensations. According to past research, the sensation of touch depended on a map present in the brain.
However, this concept cannot be applied to the findings of this study. In fact, the researchers concluded that the previous researchers also did not take into account factors such as the positioning of the limbs or the side of the body.
Both of these can disturb the brain-body coordination and thus may also play a role in the explanation of the phantom pain phenomenon.
In accordance, more research is needed on this subject to discover further unknown factors that may help in understanding as well as the treatment of phantom limb pain, tactile sensations, and other related health conditions.
Currently, there is no actual treatment for phantom sensations or pain. Health professionals usually recommend over-the-counter medication, antidepressants or therapies such as Mirror-box therapy to the patients although none of these have a guarantee of treatment.