'Virtual massage' can relieve amputees' phantom limb pain
Amputees who experience phantom limb pain could find relief in a surprisingly simple way - by paying more attention to the people around them.
Phantom limbs occur when an amputee feels the often painful sensation of touch arising from a limb that is no longer present. Working with combat veterans, Vilayanur Ramachandran, of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, has now discovered a potential cure.
His treatment makes use of the newly discovered properties of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons fire when a person performs an intentional action - such as waving - and also when they observe someone else performing the same action. They are thought to help us predict the intentions of others by creating a "virtual reality" simulation of the action in our minds...