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Review Article

Exp Neurobiol 2012; 21(4): 129-135

Published online December 30, 2012

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

Cortical Depression and Potentiation: Basic Mechanisms for Phantom Pain

Min Zhuo1,2*

1Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Centre for the Study of Pain, University of Toronto, Medical Sciences Building, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2Center for Neuron and Disease, Frontier Institute of Science and Technology, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
TEL: 86-416-978-4018, FAX: 86-416-978-4018


People experience the feeling of the missing body part long after it has been removed after amputation are known as phantom limb sensations. These sensations can be painful, sometimes becoming chronic and lasting for several years (or called phantom pain). Medical treatment for these individuals is limited. Recent neurobiological investigations of brain plasticity after amputation have revealed new insights into the changes in the brain that may cause phantom limb sensations and phantom pain. In this article, I review recent progresses of the cortical plasticity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a critical cortical area for pain sensation, and explore how they are related to abnormal sensory sensations such as phantom pain. An understanding of these alterations may guide future research into medical treatment for these disorders.

Keywords: anterior cingulate cortex, long-term potentiation, long-term depression, phantom pain, amputation, mice