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Unstrange Phenomena

14 April 2009

Brain: Double Amputees Shed Light on Brain's Flexibility

Shaking with the right hand while delivering a...Image via Wikipedia

From Denny: OK, this calls for a total WOW!

This is awesome news to find out that the brain is capable of rewiring itself to function again as it once did before a person lost both his hands to an amputation. Researchers are astounded at the results of these hand tranplantations in both subjects.

Here's what they have found out so far:

1 - Even after several years following amputation of the hands, the brain is capable of reorganizing itself to accept and connect up with the new transplanted donor hands. (This gives new meaning to signing that donor card on your driver's license...)

This is what happens after an amputation that is why it is so amazing the brain can reverse this: "After a person loses a hand, the region of the motor cortex that controls hand movement shrinks and rewires itself to control the upper arm, a property called plasticity. When the researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation - a technique that employs magnetic fields to excite neurons in the brain - to stimulate specific fragments of the motor cortex, they found that the 'hand areas' in the motor cortex of both men had reassumed their original 'wiring.'"

2 - The researchers also found that the left hand was first to work efficiently with the brain as opposed to the right hand. Now both men in the study were originally right-handed so researchers are not sure about why this happened. They think it might be because as right hand dominant it is more rigidly represented in the brain and the brain is unable to easily rewire control of it. The left hand took 10 months as opposed to 25 months to work efficiently with the brain in the younger man.

"The results are important because they show that even after several years without a hand to control, the brain retrains the circuits necessary to control one," says neurophysiologist John Rothwell of the Institute of Neurology at University College London.

For a few more intriguing details just click on the title link.

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