Recent CBC News

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

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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crick's Pragmatism

From Dr. Ramachandran:

In the next few blogs I'll tell you about some of my early encounters with Francis Crick. Although the quotes are from Crick, it may well be that in some cases he was quoting others. They are also from my memory, which isnt always 100% reliable.

When Crick began his foray into the field of consciousness in the early 1980's he would sometimes give informal seminars on the topic to small groups. I remember one such occasion when Crick had barely started his seminar and a philosopher in the audience raised his hand saying " Dr Crick, what exactly do you MEAN by the word consciousness? Can you first define it before you start talking about it?" Crick's reply was, " No, not at this stage. There was never a time in the history of biology when a group of us sat around the table saying 'Lets first DEFINE life before studying it.' We just went out there and found out what it was—a double helix. We leave matters of semantic hygiene to you philosophers."

Double Helix, by James Gaither  
Double Helix, courtesy James Gaither

A pithy way of saying science is an intensely pragmatic affair. Of course it's a good idea to know roughly what you are talking about, but sometimes precise definitions FOLLOW conceptual clarity—not vice versa. Crick's advice is well taken but should not be used as an excuse for shoddy thinking. (I expand on this theme in several endnotes in my new book Tell Tale Brain)

Crick would also often point out that one must scrupulously avoid getting caught up in the elegance or technical sophistication of an experiment; what matters most of all is if you end up proving what you set out to prove: so what?—what is its broader significance? He often quoted someone as having said "If an experiment is not worth doing, it's not worth doing well."

In fact, on one occasion, a rather pedantic experimental psychologist was telling him about a long complicated experiment he had done, incorporating all the proper controls and using considerable technical virtuosity. When he saw Crick's exasperated expression he said "but Dr. Crick, we have got it RIGHT—we know its right," Crick's response was, "The point is not whether it's right. The point is: does it even MATTER whether its right or wrong?"

Here again, that intense pragmatism.