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Ofrecen una explicación a la aparición de ‘miembros fantasma’ tras una amputación

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El misterio de los dolores experimentados en ‘miembros fantasma’ ha recibido una nueva explicación en Suecia de mano del profesor asociado de la Universidad de Chalmers Max Ortiz Catalán. En un artículo publicado recientemente en la revista Frontiers in Neurology, el científico describió el fenómeno como un “enredo estocástico de dolor”.

Es conocido que las personas que han perdido una extremidad pueden experimentar dolores, y bastante intensos, aparentemente originados en esa parte del cuerpo ausente. Tal condición afecta gravemente la calidad de vida de los pacientes, especialmente por lo complicado que es encontrar un tratamiento adecuado.

La hipótesis de Ortiz Catalán es que los circuitos neuronales previamente conectados con la extremidad pierden su papel, pero nunca se hunden completamente en silencio. Mientras no están procesando un trabajo en particular, pueden dispararse al azar. De esta manera, se enredan con otras redes neuronales, incluidas las responsables de percibir el dolor, y se hacen susceptibles a sus señales.

“Imagine que pierde su mano”, planteó el científico en un comentario ofrecido a la página web de la universidad sueca. “Eso deja gran parte de los ‘bienes raíces’ en su cerebro —y en el todo el sistema nervioso— sin ningún trabajo. Deja de procesar cualquier entrada sensorial, deja de producir cualquier salida motriz para mover la mano. Se queda inactivo, pero no silencioso”.

Con la función sensoriomotriz, las neuronas pueden activarse accidentalmente desde la red de percepción del dolor y hacer que la persona sin extremidad llegue a experimentar una sensación de daño. Normalmente, afirmó el investigador, estos disparos sincronizados esporádicos no son un problema, sino que forman parte del ruido de fondo. Sin embargo, en los pacientes “puede resultar una experiencia sorprendente y cargada de emotividad: sentir dolor en una parte del cuerpo que no se tiene”.

El hecho de que las neuronas se disparen juntas y se conecten entre sí no es parte de una nueva teoría, sino una ley fisiológica reconocida, explicó el investigador. Según este, la activación de este vínculo es aleatoria, por lo que no funciona en todos los pacientes. Pero una vez percibida la insólita sensación, la conexión neuronal se refuerza, lo que puede contribuir a “establecer un vínculo indeseable”.

Una cura virtual

Siguiendo su teoría, Ortiz Catalán propuso un método de tratamiento de las dolencias de este tipo: una extremidad virtual que funciona con inteligencia artificial.

El científico conectó la IA a través de varios electrodos con el miembro residual (o muñón) del paciente para que esta puediera interceptar y leer las señales que el área inactiva del cerebro enviaba a la mano. A continuación, el paciente y el investigador podían ver en una pantalla la ejecución de las órdenes y controlar el miembro virtual como si fuera propio. Gracias a esta técnica, se consigue que el circuito sensoriomortriz se desenrede del circuito responsable del dolor.

Con información de Actualidad RT

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