Brain somatic representation of phantom and intact limb: a fMRI study case report

Eur J Pain. 2000;4(3):239-45. doi: 10.1053/eujp.2000.0176.


Reports on phantom limb patients concerning neuronal reorganization using non-invasive methods have focused mainly on the cortical regions and suggest the presence of pain as the cause of this reorganization. The phantom limb, however, includes other somatic and motor sensations other than pain. Here we describe the results of non-painful stimulation in cortical and subcortical lateralization and reorganization and also examine the involvement of subcortical structures in phantom limb telescoping perception. We describe an enlarged contralateral cortical representation of the stump, a cortical and thalamic bilateral representation of the remaining leg, and a neuronal correlate of a telescoping perception of the phantom limb. The missing leg produces an enlarged cortical representation due to abnormal information and the remaining leg has a bilateral SII representation, which could be related to new, compensatory functions. The telescoping perception of a phantom limb by the stimulation of misallocation points was correlated with lenticular nuclei, thalamic and cingulate gyrus activation. We therefore propose that the reorganization concept of a phantom limb, applied mainly to the cortex, must extend to the thalamic and the somatosensory and motor systems (pathways and relay nuclei).

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amputation Stumps / physiopathology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Phantom Limb / diagnosis*
  • Phantom Limb / physiopathology*
  • Physical Stimulation