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Pain and somatic sensation are transiently normalized by illusory body ownership in a patient with spinal cord injury


Pazzaglia, Mariella; Haggard, Patrick; Scivoletto, Giorgio; Molinari, Marco; Lenggenhager, Bigna (2016). Pain and somatic sensation are transiently normalized by illusory body ownership in a patient with spinal cord injury. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 34(4):603-613.

Abstract

PURPOSE: Spinal cord injury (SCI), a profound impairment of sensorimotor functions, is often associated with pain related phenomena, including mechanical allodynia, a condition in which non-painful tactile sensation is perceived as pain. Pain and somatic sensation are undeniable markers of normal bodily awareness. However, the mechanism by which they are integrated into a coherent sense of the bodily self remains largely unclear. In this study, we investigated the effect of high-level multisensory manipulation on subjective experiences of pain, touch, and body-ownership.

METHODS: We administered visuo-tactile stimulation based on the rubber hand illusion. In a longitudinal study, we compared the strength of the illusion in a male with SCI, who initially had lost somatosensation in all his fingers, but a few months later reported signs of tactile allodynia restricted to the left C6-dermatome.

RESULTS: After the restoration of some somatosensation, even if it were painful, synchronous but not asynchronous visuo-tactile stimulation induced body illusion. Previously painful stimuli were temporarily perceived as less painful, and the patient further regained tactile sensations in adjacent numb areas.

CONCLUSIONS: The sensations of touch and pain are mutually influenced and inextricably linked to a coherent representation of one's own body. Multisensory manipulations affecting the perception and representation of the body might thus offer a powerful opportunity to mitigate nociceptive and somatic abnormalities.

Abstract

PURPOSE: Spinal cord injury (SCI), a profound impairment of sensorimotor functions, is often associated with pain related phenomena, including mechanical allodynia, a condition in which non-painful tactile sensation is perceived as pain. Pain and somatic sensation are undeniable markers of normal bodily awareness. However, the mechanism by which they are integrated into a coherent sense of the bodily self remains largely unclear. In this study, we investigated the effect of high-level multisensory manipulation on subjective experiences of pain, touch, and body-ownership.

METHODS: We administered visuo-tactile stimulation based on the rubber hand illusion. In a longitudinal study, we compared the strength of the illusion in a male with SCI, who initially had lost somatosensation in all his fingers, but a few months later reported signs of tactile allodynia restricted to the left C6-dermatome.

RESULTS: After the restoration of some somatosensation, even if it were painful, synchronous but not asynchronous visuo-tactile stimulation induced body illusion. Previously painful stimuli were temporarily perceived as less painful, and the patient further regained tactile sensations in adjacent numb areas.

CONCLUSIONS: The sensations of touch and pain are mutually influenced and inextricably linked to a coherent representation of one's own body. Multisensory manipulations affecting the perception and representation of the body might thus offer a powerful opportunity to mitigate nociceptive and somatic abnormalities.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:11 April 2016
Deposited On:21 Sep 2017 15:30
Last Modified:21 Sep 2017 15:30
Publisher:I O S Press
ISSN:0922-6028
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3233/RNN-150611
PubMed ID:27080071

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