Phantom limb pain is a poorly understood phenomenon, in which people who have lost a limb can experience severe pain, seemingly located in that missing part of the body. The condition can be seriously debilitating and can drastically reduce the sufferer’s quality of life. But current ideas on its origins cannot explain clinical findings, nor provide a comprehensive theoretical framework for its study and treatment.
Now, Max Ortiz Catalan, Associate Professor at Chalmers University of Technology, has published a paper that offers up a promising new theory — one that he terms ‘stochastic entanglement’.
He proposes that after an amputation, neural circuitry related to the missing limb loses its role and becomes susceptible to entanglement with other neural networks — in this case, the network responsible for pain perception.