Body schema and body awareness of amputees
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Prosthet Orthot Int. 2008 Sep;32(3):363-82. doi: 10.1080/03093640802024971.
Body schema and body awareness of amputees.
Mayer A1, Kudar K, Bretz K, Tihanyi J.
St George University Teaching Hospital, Székesfehérvár, Hungary. email@example.com
The phantom phenomenon is a well-known example of the difference between body awareness and body schema. The present study is aimed at showing how body changes and prosthesis use are reflected in body schema and body awareness-the latter relating to the image that various amputees have of their bodies.
SUBJECT AND METHODS:
(i) Examining the configuration of body schema: A trial examining the spatial location of the phantom limb (50 people with lower or upper limb loss);
(ii) examining the functional aspect of body schema: The distribution of weight power between intact and prosthetic limbs (34 people with tibial amputation);
(iii) examining body awareness: Body Focus Questionnaire by Fisher (44 people with lower limb amputation, 33 intact people); and
(iv) Questionnaire on anamnesis- and prosthesis-wearing habits (people participating in research methods [i] and [iii] mentioned above).
We found that when the amputees wore their prostheses, the configuration of body schema did not change, however, the people who had not used their prosthesis for a long period of time (in our study, at least for six years), the phantom limb shortened, a phenomenon known as telescoping.
The functional adaptation of the prosthesis to the body schema starts in a short time (within two weeks) after wearing it, and it becomes close to normal in carrying body weight after a longer period of time (two years). In the beginning phase of rehabilitation, the awareness of legs is similar to that of the control group, while later on it this awareness decreases. Over time, however, the lost limb, regardless of having a prosthesis or not, loses its importance. People with a more serious or vascular amputation of the upper limbs have a clearer image of them. Limb parts having a greater cortical representation appear more intensively in phantom sensations, while the strength of the cortical representation in body schema has no significance.
From both configuration and functional aspects, wearing a prosthesis helps maintain a body schema in which the phantom limb remains similar to the intact one, which can be explained by the connectional schema model. This is needed for movements to be carried out properly. Although the amputee can see the prosthesis and senses the phantom limb, they do not consider it their own since they are aware of the loss. Therefore, the fact that a prosthesis is worn will not be represented in body awareness as the highest level of mental structure.