Brains See Wheelchairs as Body Part
(Ivanhoe Newswire) – For people that need them, prosthetic devices become an integral part of everyday life. Considering that these various devices restore important functions, it is no wonder that people begin to think of prosthetics as an extension of their own body. In fact, a recent study found that the human brain learns to treat and think of prosthetics such as wheelchairs as a substitute for non-working body parts instead of an extension of the immobile limbs.
“The corporeal awareness of the tool emerges not merely as an extension of the body but as a substitute for, and part of, the functional self,” researcher Mariella Pazzaglia from Sapienza University and IRCCS Fondazione Santa Lucia of Rome in Italy was quoted as saying.
Researchers came to this conclusion after studying spinal cord injury patients who were bound to a wheelchair. The patients viewed their wheelchairs as part of their bodies and even included them in their perception of their bodies’ edges, regardless of how long they have been injured or their experience with wheelchairs.
Another interesting find in the study was that participants who were still able to move their upper body demonstrated a stronger relationship between the wheelchair and their own body compared to participants whose whole bodies were affected by the spinal cord injury.
Why the spinal cord injury patients perceived their wheelchair as a replacement of their immobile limbs may be because the brain updates body signals to include the prosthetic devices into a sense of body.
No matter what the reason is, these results show how physically impaired individuals may feel whole once again, even if it’s only with a prosthetic.
Source: PLOS ONE, March 2013