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Born to adapt, but not in your dreams

By T. Mulder, J. Hochstenbach, P.U. Dijkstra and J.H. Geertzen


The brain adapts to changes that take place in the body. Deprivation of input results in size reduction of cortical representations, whereas an increase in input results in an increase of representational space. Amputation forms one of the most dramatic disturbances of the integrity of the body. The brain adapts in many ways to this breakdown of the afferent-efferent equilibrium. However, almost all studies focus on the sensorimotor consequences. It is not known whether adaptation takes place also at other "levels" in the system. The present study addresses the question whether amputees dream about their intact body, as before the amputation, or about the body after the amputation and whether the dream content was a function of time since the amputation and type of amputation. The results show that the majority of the dreamers reported dreams about their intact body although the mean time that elapsed since the amputation was twelve years. There is no clear relation with the type of amputation. The results give modest evidence for the existence of a basic neural representation of the body that is, at least, partly genetically determined and by this relatively insensitive for changes in the sensory input

Year: 2008
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