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Science
THE MATERIAL WORLD
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Thursday 16:30-17:00
Quentin Cooper reports on developments across the sciences. Each week scientists describe their work, conveying the excitement they feel for their research projects.
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Listen to 23 November
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QUENTIN COOPER
Quentin Cooper
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Thursday 23 November 2006
Virtual Reality as a Rehabilitation Technology for Phantom Limb Experience
Virtual Reality as a Rehabilitation Technology for Phantom Limb Experience (courtesy of Manchester University)

Treatment for Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom Limb Pain (PLP) is a discomfort felt by a person in a limb that’s missing due to amputation or paralysis.

Previous research has found that when a person’s brain is tricked into believing that they they can see and move a ‘phantom’ limb, the pain can decrease.

A mirror box used to be used, where the patient put the intact limb and could see the mirror image – tricking their brain into thinking they could see the missing limb. This had limited success as it was easy for the concentration and the illusion of the phantom limb to be broken.

Quentin talks to scientists at the University of Manchester, who have come up with the next step up from the mirror box.

Dr Stephen Pettifer from the School of Computer Science and Dr Craig Murray from the School of Psychological Sciences have been helping patients with amputations and particularly severe Phantom Limb Pain by putting them in a virtual reality world where they have the full compliment of limbs.

Using a electromagnetic trackers on the intact limb and transferring it in the virtual world to the missing limb, the patients can see their missing limb moving and from this find some releif to their pain.
 
Breath Analysis

It’s been known for centuries that unusual body and mouth odours can be indicators of disease. People with diabetes can have a sweet fruity smell on their breath. Dialysis units often have a distinctive sour odour caused by excessive ammonia released through the skin and in the breath of uraemic patients.

The human body is a true chemical factory producing many different chemical compounds as part of its daily functioning and many more when things go wrong.

By analysing the breath of a patient, doctors can determine or rule out a variety of diseases. It’s a non-invasive technique, which is perfect for those of us who don’t like having blood taken. Breath analysis can even be done online in real time.

This science is in its early stages of development and exploration, but it looks to be extremely promising for medical diagnosis.

Quentin Cooper talks Professor David Smith, from Keele University, about his new breath analysis clinic and to Dr Ross Maxwell, Technical Director of Pan Diagnostics, a company working towards diagnosing schizophrenia through breath analysis.
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