Phantom experiences occur in almost all amputees but are among the least understood sensory phenomena. Recently changes in the representation of body maps in the brain were found to be related to phantom pain and it has also been demonstrated that there are great similarities between nonpainful phantoms and bodily illusions such as the rubber hand illusion. This research has also shown that the brain does not process the physical but the perceived reality, which opens the door to manipulations of the perceived reality in basic research and the treatment of phantom pain. Behavioral intervention methods such as prosthesis, sensory discrimination or mirror training influence phantom limb pain and alter brain function. Thus, phantom phenomena are an excellent tool to study the neural basis of somatosensory and specifically bodily perception and this lead to new treatment methods such as brain-computer interfaces or virtual reality applications for phantom pain and similar pain states. The detailed analysis of the various types of phantom phenomena and bodily illusions and their relationship to each other is now timely. The aim of this proposal is therefore (1) an exact assessment and analysis of the interrelationship various phantom phenomena such as phantom limb awareness, painful phantom sensation, telescoping, prosthesis use and proneness to bodily illusionsor plasticity of body image in a large sample of amputees, (2) the analysis of the neural correlates of these phenomena in small subgroups of amputees using functional magnetic resonance imaging as well as transcranial magnetic stimulation, (3) the analysis of determinants and neural correlates of bodily illusions in healthy controls to identify potential common neural mechanisms and (4) use of prosthesis and virtual reality training early after amputation in order to understand how manipulations of the body image and sensory feedback alter the development and the brain correlates of phantoms.
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