Essay on Describing Phantom Limb Experience

Essay on Describing Phantom Limb Experience

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Describing Phantom Limb Experience

Of people who have had body parts amputated, about 80 percent experience some sort of phantom limb sensation. This experience, which can range from severe shooting pain to merely feeling the presence of the absent limb, most often occurs in amputees but sometimes manifests itself in individuals whose limbs have been missing since birth. The sensations patients experience are not necessarily of the same strength, location, or duration from occurrence to occurrence, and the frequency of episodes often fluctuates over time. Especially in the case of amputees, who have lived a significant portion of their lives with the limb in question, it would make sense that there be a psychological element to phantom limb sensation. This notion is corroborated by the fact that phantom limb sensation is rare in children under the age of four; it is thought that these children are young enough to not see the loss of a body part as so significant a trauma who has.lived with full use of the limb for so long. Yet this phantom limb sensation also has a physiological component. Both pain and light-touch sensations (both of which phantom limbs may feel) are the result of impulses traveling through the thalamus, which relays the information the cerebral cortex, where sensations are mapped.

This mapping is believed to be done on what the Macalester College Psychology Department calls a (somatosensory) "homunculus." Neurologists think that in the cerebral cortex is a map of the human body, where certain impulse locations correlate with specific locations on the body. That is, cortical regions represent individual parts of the body. The amputation, or even the congenital lack, of a body part, would be problematic ...

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