Sunday, May 29, 2011

UNUSUAL - Treating Osteoarthritis ... like magic

According to some psychologists, it would be enough of a hocus-pocus to relieve arthritis. A simple optical illusion generated by computer can alleviate their suffering, as shown in an experiment conducted by the University of Nottingham after a chance discovery. The researchers hope their work will one day allow patients to control their unconscious to help manage their disease.

Through a machine called Mirage, patients with osteoarthritis have improved the mobility of their hands by reducing the pain of their fingers. Guinea pigs should place their hand inside a box containing a camera whose image was projected on a screen before them. This arrangement gave them the illusion that their fingers with osteoarthritis stretched or shortened greatly.

In fact, someone was manipulating their fingers inside the box, pulling or pushing them gently. In 85% of cases, the pain was halved. Originally, the Mirage was for a school project on mental representations. Objective: To show how our brain manages what we see and what we feel physically.

"In general, these are children involved in this kind of experience," said Roger Newport, who heads the research at the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. "They are fascinated by illusions." But the grandmother of one of the participants who accidentally discovered the healing powers of the Mirage.

"She wanted to try, but asked us to pay attention because she had arthritis in the fingers," says Dr. Catherine Preston, Nottingham Trent University, who collaborated on this project. "We were doing a demonstration of illusion with an exercise on his hands when she said, 'I'm more sore fingers!" She asked if she could take the machine with her.

We were stunned, I do not know who her or us, was the most surprised. "The psychologists then decided to appeal to twenty volunteers aged approximately 70 years with osteoarthritis and to test the technique Mirage. All were suffering from arthritic pain in hands and fingers, and were asked to rate the pain experienced during the experiment.

Many have reported a decrease in pain when the image showed a hand stretched. Others suffered less when their hand narrowed. Some felt better when their fingers were stretched and shrunk. One third of participants no longer felt any pain. Experts have found that the illusion only worked when the painful areas of the hand was manipulated.

Some subjects also suffered under the feet during the experiment. Researchers should publish their findings in a letter to the journal Rheumatology. Further studies are needed to judge the effectiveness of this technique. Patients (for now) is unlikely to be able to use the Mirage home: in fact this machine costs about £ 10 000 [111 000].

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