Phantom limb sensations may be linked to motor activities in the deafferented cortices of amputees, with artificial visual feedback of an amputated limb leading to enhanced phantom sensations. The present study was designed to verify if cortical motor activity related to an amputated limb can be triggered by visual input using an objective behavioral measure and with a neurophysiological correlate. Trauma amputees and normally limbed subjects showed superior performance in a mirror-drawing task when the mirror was placed sagittally (giving visual feedback of the amputated/inactive limb) compared with when it was placed frontally. Measurement of lateralized movement-related brain potentials showed that, under the lateral mirror condition, contralateral motor activity of the viewed hand was observed in both normal subjects and trauma amputees. In contrast, this activity was not observed in subjects with congenital limb absence. These findings suggest that, in traumatic amputees, motor enhancement due to visualization of the movements of the missing limb reflects the effectiveness of motor commands to the missing limb, strengthening the hypothesis of the functional survival of deafferented cortical motor areas.

You do not currently have access to this content.