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Treating phantom limb pain with electrical stimulation

Project Full Title:

Treating phantom limb pain with electrical stimulation

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Project Description:

This interdisciplinary project will incorporate the disciplines of Engineering, and Neuroscience. Review of applications will begin on January 15th. We will make use of the Electroencephalography equipment in the psychology department but the project is specifically housed within the Hope College Department of Engineering.

Individuals who have an amputated limb often retain 'feeling' in the missing limb that can sometimes manifest in extreme pain, referred to as phantom limb pain. Pharmaceutical treatment for phantom limb pain is varied and often unsuccessful. Research suggests that incorporation of the prosthetic limb into the user's body image will decrease the occurrence/severity of phantom limb pain. Providing sensation from the prosthetic limb is one method to help include it in the body image. The ultimate goal of this research is to test a therapeutic protocol with amputees to reduce or eliminate phantom limb pain.

Electrical stimulation can be used to evoke sensation from intact nerves. After amputation of a limb, the nerves that once detected sensory information like touch and movement remain viable, even though the sensors are missing. Appropriate activation of these nerves will provide sensations in the missing limb. The questions that we are looking to answer in this project are: how do the cortical signals compare between actual and artificial sensation and how do these signals change over time. We will be recording EEGs using equipment in the psychology department and analyzing the data to determine which different aspects of the signal change with tapping different locations as well as using electrical activation of sensation.

This summer we hope to recruit at least one person with an amputated limb to take part in the study and receive our therapy twice a week for 6-12 weeks. For this position, I am looking for someone with a good 'bedside manner' or ability to talk with people and make them feel at ease and free to ask questions. This of course all depends on the state of the pandemic come this summer.

The student(s) will be involved in experimental design, equipment setup and programming, taking data with human subjects and data analysis. Programming and data analysis will be performed in Matlab. Student(s) will receive training in proper human subject research and follow all IRB regulations.

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