Approximately 70 per cent of amputees struggle with psychosomatically-induced chronic pain in their missing appendage, known as Phantom Limb Syndrome. This has traditionally been treated with Mirror Therapy but with only mixed success. A new system utilising a Kinect and VR goggles could help bring patients some much needed relief.
Phantom Limb sufferers often perceive their limb contorted or clenched into a painful position. The Kinect system, which was hacked together by Benjamin Blundell at the University of Manchester, places a patient into a virtual environment and uses the gaming device, as well as a series of gyroscopes, to help "retrain" the brain to perceive the missing limb in less painful positions. The patient is even granted a modicum of independent control over the missing limb in the virtual environment thanks to gyroscopes connected to the stump (since the Kinect obviously can't track something that isn't there).
The system has yet to be put through stringent medical trials but has enjoyed anecdotal success with one patient during an informal test. He reported significantly less pain after the session. The results will be published for the 2012 GRAPP conference. [HackADay via PC World]