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Phantom hand representation

Sensory deprivation has been considered a major driving force for brain plasticity. However, this view is based on indirect evidence of emerging representation in the ‘deprived’ cortex (e.g., studying representations of adjacent body parts in the cortical territory of the hand following its amputation), leaving a potentially latent topography of the deprived brain region unexplored. We study how the lingering sensations of the missing hand (“phantom sensations”) are associated with preserved function in the deprived hand region of amputees. To this end, we identify latent representations in the cortical territory of the missing hand using fMRI (including ultra-high field 7T fMRI). We use behavioural and neuroimaging manipulations to modify sensation and representation of the phantom hand. Finally, we are also interested in the relationship between preserved representation of the missing hand and cortical plasticity.

Related publications: 

Makin, T. R., Scholz, J., Slater, D. H., Johansen-Berg, H., & Tracey, I. (2015). Reassessing cortical reorganization in the primary sensorimotor cortex following arm amputation. Brain138(8), 2140-2146.

Makin, T. R., Scholz, J., Filippini, N., Henderson Slater, D., Tracey, I., & Johansen-Berg, H. (2013). Phantom pain is associated with preserved structure and function in the former hand area. Nature Communications, 4, 1570. doi:10.1038/ncomms2571.  

Pons, T. P., Garraghty, P. E., Ommaya, A. K., Kaas, J. H., Taub, E., & Mishkin, M. (1991). Massive Cortical Reorganization After Sensory Deafferentation in Adult Macaques. Science, 252, 1857–1860.



James Kolasinski & Heidi Johansen-Berg, FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford

Saad Jbabdi, FMRIB Centre, University of Oxford

Christian Beckmann, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University