The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE)
Phantom limb pain, Phantom limb syndrome, Homunculus, Somatosensory cortex, Somatosensory cortical mapping, Two-point discrimination test, Two-point discrimination threshold, Mirror box, Mirror therapy, Video case
This is a flexible, interrupted video case that uses phantom limb pain as a platform to investigate brain anatomy with a focus on somatosensory cortical mapping and the homunculus. The case begins with a video of neurologist Dr. V.S. Ramachandran interviewing two amputees who experience phantom limb pain (part one). Through Dr. Ramachandran’s dialog with amputees, students learn about the paradoxical condition of feeling pain in a limb that does not exist (e.g., phantom limb pain). Students witness Dr. Ramachandran analyzing fMRI data from an amputee, and subsequently learn the somatosensory cortical mapping of the amputee has remarkably changed. Dr. Ramachandran also introduces and demonstrates one form of treatment for phantom limb pain, the mirror box. The video case is supplemented with optional opportunities for further exploration about the mirror box (part two) and somatosensory cortical mapping, via the two-point discrimination test (parts three and four). In part two, students use the primary literature to investigate the effectiveness of the mirror box, and practice skills of interpreting figures. In parts three and four, students conduct a two-point discrimination test (part three) on each other or a person in their residence and analyze class data (part four). Students are led to discover conceptual connections between all four parts of this module. As one example, students are challenged to predict how two-point discrimination data from amputees (interviewed in the video, part one) would compare to students’ two-point discrimination data (parts three and four). While the four parts of this learning module are highly interconnected, instructors can choose to selectively implement one or more parts. In addition, each part can be executed in the face-to-face classroom, as out-of-classroom assignment, in a synchronous or non-synchronous video meeting platform, or as a hybrid of these options, providing flexibility for the instructor. This case has been used in a 100-level face-to-face, non-science major course and it has been modified as an online module for a 300 level General Physiology course.
This work was supported by The Association for the Development of NSFRCN-UBE Grant #1624104: The Neuroscience Case Network (NeuroCaseNet); the support and collaboration of the NeuroCaseNet developers and fellows, namely Kristen Frenzel, Pat Marstellar and Leah A. Roesch. This work was also supported by a collaborative RUI grant from the National Science Foundation, Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, IOS1754986 (M.L.L.).
© 2021 Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience
Lemons, M.L. (2021). Phantom Limb Pain: Feeling Sensation from a Limb that is No Longer Present and What it Can Reveal About Our Brain Anatomy. The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE) 19(2): C1-C12. https://www.funjournal.org/2021-volume-19-issue-2/.