In this article we will see that whatever brain tells us is real but see some of the anomalies. Here is some of the research by Dr.V.S.Ramachandran.
Vilayanur S Ramachandran Born,1951, Tamil Nadu, India; Residence- San Diego, California University of California, San Diego (professor) and Center for Brain and Cognition (director) ;Alma mater-M.B.B.S. at University of Madras, (Chennai); Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge;
Known for Neurology, visual perception, phantom limbs, synesthesia, autism, body integrity identity disorder Notable awards Ariens Kappers Medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences; The Padma Bhushan from the President of India; BBC Reith Lectures(2003); elected to a visiting fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford (1998);
Ramachandran is noted for his use of experimental methods that rely relatively little on complex technologies such as neuroimaging. Despite the apparent simplicity of his approach, Ramachandran has generated many new ideas about the brain.Ramachandran is the author of several books that have garnered widespread public interest. These include Phantoms In the Brain (1999) and more recently The Tell-Tale Brain (2010)
……..There are literally hundreds of fascinating case studies, which appear in the older medical journals. Some of the described phenomena have been confirmed repeatedly and still cry out for an explanation, whereas others seem like far−fetched products of the writer's own imagination. One of my favorites is about a patient who started experiencing a vivid phantom arm soon after amputation—nothing unusual so far—but after a few weeks developed a peculiar, gnawing sensation in his phantom. Naturally he was quite puzzled by the sudden emergence of these new sensations, but when he asked his physician why this was happening, the doctor didn't know and couldn't help. Finally, out of curiosity, the fellow asked, "Whatever happened to my arm after you removed it?" "Good question," replied the doctor, "you need to ask the surgeon." So the fellow called the surgeon, who said, "Oh, we usually send the limbs to the morgue." So the man called the morgue and asked, "What do you do with amputated arms?" They replied, "We send them either to the incinerator or to pathology. Usually we incinerate them."
"Well, what did you do with this particular arm? With my arm?" They looked at their records and said, "You know, it's funny. We didn't incinerate it. We sent it to pathology."
The man called the pathology lab. "Where is my arm?" he asked again. They said, "Well, we had too many arms, so we just buried it in the garden, out behind the hospital."
They took him to the garden and showed him where the arm was buried. When he exhumed it, he found it was crawling with maggots and exclaimed, "Well, maybe that's why I'm feeling these bizarre sensations in my arm." So he took the limb and incinerated it. And from that day on, his phantom pain disappeared.”…….
…..In 1984 Philip was hurled off his motorcycle, going at forty−five miles an hour down the San Diego freeway. He skidded across the median, landed at the foot of a concrete bridge and Philip's left arm had been severely torn near his shoulder — the nerves supplying his arm had been yanked off the spinal column. His left arm was completely paralyzed and lay lifeless in a sling for one year. Finally, doctors advised amputation. The arm was just getting in the way and would never regain function.
Ten years later, Philip walked into my office. Now in his mid-thirties, he collects a disability benefit and has made a rather impressive reputation for himself as a pool player, known among his friends as the "one−armed bandit."
Philip had heard about my experiments with phantom limbs in local press reports. He was desperate. "Dr. Ramachandran," he said, "I'm hoping you can help me." He glanced down at his missing arm. "I lost it ten years ago. But ever since I've had a terrible pain in my phantom elbow, wrist and fingers." Interviewing him further, I discovered that during the decade, Philip had never been able to move his phantom arm. It was always fixed in an awkward position. Was Philip suffering from learned paralysis? If so, could we use our virtual reality box to resurrect the phantom visually and restore movements?
I asked Philip to place his right hand on the right side of the mirror in the box and imagine that his left hand (the phantom) was on the left side. "I want you to move your right and left arms simultaneously," I instructed. "Oh, I can't do that," said Philip. "I can move my right arm but my left arm is frozen. Every morning when I get up, I try to move my phantom because it's in this funny position and I feel that moving it might help relieve the pain. But," he said, looking down at his invisible arm, "I have never been able to generate a flicker of movement in it."
"Okay, Philip, but try anyway."
Philip rotated his body, shifting his shoulder, to "insert" his lifeless phantom into the box. Then he put his right hand on the other side of the mirror and attempted to make synchronous movements. As he gazed into the mirror, he gasped and then cried out, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God, doctor! This is unbelievable. It's mind−boggling!" He was jumping up and down like a kid. "My left arm is plugged in again. It's as if I'm in the past. All these memories from so many years ago are flooding back into my mind. I can move my arm again. I can feel my elbow moving, my wrist moving. It's all moving again."
After he calmed down a little I said, "Okay, Philip, now close your eyes."
"Oh, my," he said, clearly disappointed. "It's frozen again. I feel my right hand moving, but there's no movement in the phantom."
"Open your eyes."
"Oh, yes. Now it's moving again."
It was as though Philip had some temporary inhibition or block of the neural circuits that would ordinarily move the phantom and the visual feedback had overcome this block. More amazing still, these bodily sensations of the arm's movements were revived instantly, even though they had never been felt in the preceding ten years!
…….I went back the next day and asked Philip, "Are you willing to take this device home and practice with it?"
"Sure," said Philip. "I'd love to take it home. I find it very exciting that I can move my arm again, even if only momentarily."
So Philip took the mirror home. A week later I telephoned him. "What's happening?"
"Oh, it's fun, doctor. I use it for ten minutes every day. I put my hand inside, wave it around and see how it feels. My girlfriend and I play with it. It's very enjoyable. But when I close my eyes, it still doesn't work. And if I don't use the mirror, it doesn't work. I know you want my phantom to start moving again, but without the mirror it doesn't."
Three more weeks passed until one day Philip called me, very excited and agitated. "Doctor," he exclaimed,"it's gone!"
"What's gone?" (I thought maybe he had lost the mirror box.)
"My phantom is gone."
"What are you talking about?"
"You know, my phantom arm, which I had for ten years. It doesn't exist anymore. All I have is my phantom fingers and palm dangling from my shoulder!"
My immediate reaction was, Oh, no! I have apparently permanently altered a person's body image using a mirror. How would this affect his mental state and well−being? "Philip—does it bother you?"
"No no no no no no," he said. "On the contrary. You know the excruciating pain I always had in my elbow?
The pain that tortured me several times a week? Well, now I don't have an elbow and I don't have that pain anymore. But I still have my fingers dangling from my shoulder and they still hurt." He paused, apparently to let this sink in. "Unfortunately," he added, "your mirror box doesn't work anymore because my fingers are up too high. Can you change the design to eliminate my fingers?" Philip seemed to think I was some kind of magician.
I wasn't sure I could help Philip with his request, but I realized that this was probably the first example in medical history of a successful "amputation" of a phantom limb! The experiment suggests that when Philip's right parietal lobe was presented with conflicting signals—visual feedback telling him that his arm is moving again while his muscles are telling him the arm is not there—his mind resorted to a form of denial. The only way his beleaguered brain could deal with this bizarre sensory conflict was to say, "To hell with it, there is no arm!" And as a huge bonus, Philip lost the associated pain in his phantom elbow as well, for it may be impossible to experience a disembodied pain in a nonexistent phantom. It's not clear why his fingers didn't disappear, but one reason might be that they are overrepresented—like the huge lips on the Pen−field map—in the somatosensory cortex and may be more difficult to deny…….
……..”Now just think about what all this means. For your entire life, you've been walking around assuming that your "self is anchored to a single body that remains stable and permanent at least until death. Indeed, the "loyalty" of your self to your own body is so axiomatic that you never even pause to think about it, let alone question it. Yet these experiments suggest the exact opposite—that your body image, despite all its appearance of durability, is an entirely transitory internal construct that can be profoundly modified with just a few simple tricks. It is merely a shell that you've temporarily created for successfully passing on your genes to your offspring”……..
1. Phantoms in the Brain - V.S. Ramachandran, M.D., Ph.D., and Sandra Blakeslee.