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No. 137: SEP-OCT 2001

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Phantom Bodies

The phantom-limb phenomenon is well-known but poorly understood. A person who has lost a limb, or born without one, experiences pain, touch, heat, and many of the other normal sensations in the absent appendage. How can this be?

Neuroscientist P. Brugger, at the University of Zurich, asserts the following:

The brain contains a representation of the body, and disturbances in relevant neural networks by brain tumors or epilepsy can create the apparitions.

Brugger means that the brain seems to have a neurological map of the entire body, even if a person is born without a leg or loses same in an accident. The phantom-limb phenomenon is thereby expanded to a "phantom-body" phenomenon. Continuing in this vein, tumors or those "neurological disturbances" could also produce the sensation of an entire phantom body.

Could such whole-body apparitions be the source of the doppelgangers (images of one's self) that have been reported in the parapsychological literature and in folklore?

(Holden, Constance, ed.; "Doppelgangers," Science, 291:429, 2001.)

From Science Frontiers #137, SEP-OCT 2001. 2001 William R. Corliss

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