Motor and parietal cortex stimulation for phantom limb pain and sensations

Nadia Bolognini, Elena Olgiati, Angelo Maravita, Francesco Ferraro, Felipe Fregni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Limb amputation may lead to chronic painful sensations referred to the absent limb, ie phantom limb pain (PLP), which is likely subtended by maladaptive plasticity. The present study investigated whether transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a noninvasive technique of brain stimulation that can modulate neuroplasticity, can reduce PLP. In 2 double-blind, sham-controlled experiments in subjects with unilateral lower or upper limb amputation, we measured the effects of a single session of tDCS (2 mA, 15 min) of the primary motor cortex (M1) and of the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) on PLP, stump pain, nonpainful phantom limb sensations and telescoping. Anodal tDCS of M1 induced a selective short-lasting decrease of PLP, whereas cathodal tDCS of PPC induced a selective short-lasting decrease of nonpainful phantom sensations; stump pain and telescoping were not affected by parietal or by motor tDCS. These findings demonstrate that painful and nonpainful phantom limb sensations are dissociable phenomena. PLP is associated primarily with cortical excitability shifts in the sensorimotor network; increasing excitability in this system by anodal tDCS has an antalgic effect on PLP. Conversely, nonpainful phantom sensations are associated to a hyperexcitation of PPC that can be normalized by cathodal tDCS. This evidence highlights the relationship between the level of excitability of different cortical areas, which underpins maladaptive plasticity following limb amputation and the phenomenology of phantom limb, and it opens up new opportunities for the use of tDCS in the treatment of PLP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1274-1280
Number of pages7
JournalPain
Volume154
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013

Keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • Maladaptive plasticity
  • Phantom limb
  • tDCS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Motor and parietal cortex stimulation for phantom limb pain and sensations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this