Recent CBC News

Updates and thoughts from members of the Center for Brain and Cognition.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Helmholtz Club

More than 3 decades ago Dr. Ramachandran, together with Francis Crick (who used to be affiliated with the CBC) and Professor Gordon Shaw of UC Irvine, founded a think-tank called the Helmholtz Club of Southern California which has been meeting monthly for thirty two years. It has flourished and evolved into a world-renowned institution for discussing novel ideas on visual psychophysics and neuroscience. It is currently under the leadership of Terry Sejnowski of the Salk Institute. A new paper has just beeen published by the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, outlining the early formative years of the Helmholtz Club and its important role in the history of ideas. ( )
Crick also often acknowledged the conversations he had with Ramachandran as having influenced his thinking on human vision and brain function in general (see, for example, Robert Olby’s biography of Francis Crick pages 387-88).

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mirror therapy for orthopaedic injuries

Mirrors have also been used to promote recovery of hand function after hand surgery in a controlled clinical trial on 30 patients.

Effect of mirror therapy on hand function in patients with hand orthopaedic injuries: a randomized controlled trial

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Visual Feedback Combined With Proprioceptive Feedback Helps Relieve Phantom Pain

Max Ortiz-Catalan and colleagues recently reported a case study in which they used virtual reality to decrease phantom limb pain. Treatment led to complete pain-free periods, the ability to freely move their phantom limb, and a telescoping effect in which the position of the phantom hand was restored to the anatomically correct distance. This treatment could be helpful for bilateral amputees in which mirror therapy is not an option as mirror therapy requires one intact limb.

Treatment of phantom limb pain (PLP) based on augmented reality and gaming controlled by myoelectric pattern recognition: a case study of a chronic PLP patient

Mirror Visual Feedback for Back Pain

Back pain is extremely common and can seriously compromise a person's life style. Lorimer Moseley and his collaborators have now demonstrated successful use of mirror therapy for treating this disorder; in an ingenious placebo controlled study, the mirror group showed, on average, about 10% greater reduction in pain than the control group.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Clinical Trials of Mirror Box Therapy

Mirror box therapy has been found to be highly effective in both small clinical trials (McCabe et al 2003a) and placebo controlled cross over studies on 48 patients (Caccio et al 2009).  After four weeks of therapy for 30-60 minutes each day, the 24 subjects on mirror box therapy all showed substantial decrement in pain (from 8.1 to 5.6 on a 10 point visual scale) whereas the 24 subjects on non-reflecting mirrors showed either no decrease or slight increase in pain. These results are especially important because most treatments for RSD are largely ineffective and because of the the fact that mirror box therapy is inexpensive, non-invasive, and can be self administered at homeA recent meta-analysis by Dohle also confirms its efficacy and clinical utility (Dohle et al 2008).

Friday, June 1, 2012

Broken Windows Theory of Autism Explored by Dr. Enticott's New Research

The recent study by Dr. Peter Enticott et al. found a diminished activation of the mirror neuron system amongst individuals with autism spectrum disorders. In their new study, Dr. Peter Enticott at Monash University and his colleagues used transcranial magnetic stimulation to stimulate the brains of individuals with ASD and healthy individuals while they observed different hand gestures.  This allowed the researchers to measure the activity of each individual's mirror neuron system with millisecond precision in response to each observed action.  

They found that the individuals with ASD showed a blunted brain response to stimulation of the motor cortex when viewing a transitive hand gesture. In other words, the mirror neuron system in the ASD individuals became less activated when watching the gestures, compared to the healthy group. In addition, among people with ASD, less mirror neuron activity was associated with greater social impairments. This finding adds to the evidence that deficits in mirror neuron system functioning contribute to the social deficits in ASD.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Several new articles examine CBC hypotheses

A number of recent articles have been published which provide new evidence confirming several hypotheses put forward by CBC researchers over the years.

A recent study by Dr. Peter Enticott et al. found a diminished activation of the mirror neuron system amongst individuals with autism spectrum disorders.  The mirror neuron theory of autism ("The shattered mirrors theory") was initially proposed and confirmed experimentally by CBC researchers Ramachandran, Altschuler, Hubbard  and Pineda and presented at the Society for Neuroscience in 2000.  Subsequently confirmed by Oberman, Ramachandran, Altschuler, and Pineda  in 2005.

Another recent study, by Lindsay Oberman (a CBC alumnus), conducted a meta-analysis of five previous studies and found that  the MNS (mirror neuron system) is deficient in ASD but rate of  maturation occurs similarly in both ASD and neurotypical individuals. 

Another CBC hypothesis which has received significant attention and has seen multiple confirmations is the hypothesis that mirror visual therapy provides relief for a variety of neurological conditions, including phantom limb pain, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (RSD), and paralysis from stroke.