Some idealistic young men raised in authoritarian families may identify with the poor and needy and search to establish an equitable society. Although they may be seeking to correct social injustice, they also need to find a way to express their rage toward their fathers, who have humiliated and abused them. That rage can morph into explosive tragedies.
Women in these families are often deemed “soft” and incompetent, as are the peaceful methods that can be used toward establishing justice. Nonviolent means are rejected.
New York City
I was pleased to see an article about body integrity identity disorder (BIID)—“Amputee Envy,” by Sabine Mueller—in Scientific American Mind.
As someone who has BIID, and as an advocate for BIID sufferers, I was disappointed that the author discussed only amputation as a focus of BIID, ignoring the fact that BIID sufferers may require other impairments, such as paralysis (which is my need), blindness or deafness. Michael First of Columbia University is currently conducting research that builds on his studies cited in your article. We expect him to prove that these nonamputation needs indeed exist as part of BIID.
I have made additional, detailed comments about the article online at
http://biid-info.org/Amputee_Envy. I welcome further discussion.
In “Living with Ghostly Limbs,” Miguel Nicolelis generously cites our original experiments, first reported in 1994, on the use of visual feedback to treat phantom-limb pain and stroke-related paralysis. He points out correctly that although many patients report relief from phantom pain after using visual feedback (whether with mirrors or virtual reality), some do not. Several recent studies suggest, however, that a substantial number of patients in fact show striking—sometimes complete—recovery from pain.
In a study by Jack Tsao’s group at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, for example, three groups of about eight patients each received one of three treatments: mirror feedback, a placebo involving guided visual imagery or a placebo using an opaque plate instead of a mirror. All patients who used mirror feedback experienced a striking reduction in pain—almost total elimination—after four weeks. The groups who received the placebo treatments showed an increase in pain. These patients were then switched to mirror feedback, and four weeks later they also felt less pain.
In 1994 we also suggested (and in 1999, with Eric Altschuler, we showed experimentally) that visual feedback can help recovery from stroke; this finding, too, was confirmed in subsequent studies, such as those by Güne ¸s Yavuzer of Ankara University in Turkey.
A paradigm shift is under way. Instead of being composed of hardwired modules (such as a “pain module” or “vision module”), the brain is made up of highly malleable modules that are in a state of dynamic equilibrium with sensory inputs and with one another. Disease often results from shifts in this equilibrium rather than the permanent destruction of neural tissue. Sometimes equilibrium can be restored with as simple a procedure as using a mirror to hit a “reset” button.
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran
University of California, San Diego
As a neurologist, I read with interest Rodger A. Sanders’s story about how his wife developed a migraine after she performed the Ramachandrans’ mirror experiment [“Mirror-Induced Migraine,” Letters]. Sanders asked if he and his wife had found a new cause for migraines.