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Crowdfunded Research Into Phantom Limb Pain Treatment

  • Published: 2016-02-15 : Author: Dr Ali Mousavi : Contact: Senior lecturer at Brunel University
  • Synopsis: Researchers from Brunel university and Poole hospital seeking to raise money to treat phantom limb pain using new portable 3D hologram technology.
Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom limb pain (PLP) refers to ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. A phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb (even an organ, like the appendix) is still attached to the body and is moving appropriately with other body parts. Approximately 60 to 80% of individuals with an amputation experience phantom sensations in their amputated limb, and the majority of the sensations are painful. The pains are often described as a burning or similarly strange sensation for people who are missing limbs. Other induced sensations include warmth, cold, itching, squeezing, tightness, and tingling.

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"While we look to improve the treatment efficiency, we also want this solution to be accessible all over the world to all patients."

Using the new crowdfunding platform Crowdacure, researchers from Brunel university and Poole hospital are seeking to raise £283,760 to treat phantom limb pain using a new portable 3D hologram technology.

Researchers from Brunel university and Poole Hospital launched a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdacure today, the first crowdfunding platform for hard-to-fund medical research. They are seeking to raise £283,760 to develop an affordable, easy to use and customisable treatment for phantom limb pain, using 3D holograms.

"Phantom limb pain" refers to the painful sensations experienced by people with amputations, where their limb is missing. Seven million people with amputations suffer from phantom limb pain and the pain is severe for two and a half million of them. Pain relief is very hard to achieve.

This is the first time holograms will be researched as a treatment for phantom limb pain. It is a virtual reality translation of the 'mirror box therapy', first proposed in 1995 by Professor Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, in which the patient's brain was 'tricked' into thinking the missing limb was still present using the reflection of the present limb.

This project will produce a technology that will be affordable, easy to use at home and compatible with games, to improve the treatment efficiency.

Professor Ali Mousavi, senior lecturer of Systems Engineering and Computing at Brunel university said:

"While we look to improve the treatment efficiency, we also want this solution to be accessible all over the world to all patients. During my childhood, my friend's dad had terrible phantom pains. I never forgot him. That is why when I realised that my research could help relieve phantom pain it became a life mission of mine to make it happen. My expertise will be to make the holograms hyper-realistic and animated through deduction."

Professor Rafiq Swash, Lecturer in Digital Media and 3D Technologies at Brunel university said:

"We invented a way of producing 3D holograms that is affordable and easy, making it compatible with routine medical practice and customisable to each patient. We feel humbled thinking of all the people with phantom limb pain who have to cope every day of their lives and feel the urgency to help."

Tony Tomlinson, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident 19 years ago said:

"My phantom limb pain started three weeks after I lost my leg. The only way I can describe the pain is to say that it's like being stabbed by thousands of needles and plugged into the electricity mains. I have tried several treatments over the years but none of them have been able to relieve my suffering. This crowdfunding campaign is the best chance I - and many others - have for some resolution, so I'm collaborating with the researchers to get this funded!"

Steve Hopwood, who lost his right leg and right arm in a car accident in 1986 said:

"I suffer from severe phantom limb pain in my right arm and in my right leg. I have tried numerous treatments over the years, but none have been of any success. At times the pain is too severe to do anything. Without the drive of such people to research into solving phantom limb pain, people such as myself and thousands of others will continue to suffer excruciating pain which can only been numbed by invasive treatments which leave us 'spaced out' and unable to fully contribute to society either from employment or family engagement."

People who are interested in supporting research into the development of this new technology that has the potential to change many lives are being asked to visit where they can donate to help the researchers reach their goal. The campaign will be running until 30/04/2016.

Sagit Weiss, founder of Crowdacure and a medical doctor said:

"This is a very exciting second project for us. Crowdacure focuses on getting 'hard-to-fund' medical research' funded by connecting directly researchers and lay or third sector organisations with the public. This will allow us to make important research happen, in spite of the funding hardship. This project is certainly hard-to-fund as pain is not a priority in research funding for people with amputations, but also due to its multidisciplinary nature. Further, commercial partnerships were not sought for by the team, who seeks to keep the technology affordable for all."

Crowdacure launched in January 2016 with a campaign to raise £10,044 for multiple sclerosis research by the neurologist, researcher and blogger Prof. Gavin Giovannoni, from the Queen Mary university in London, UK and by Prof. Julian Gold, researcher and neurologist at The Albion Centre, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney in Sydney, Australia. Trishna Bharadia, the well-known person with MS and activist, a participant in "The People's Strictly for Comic Relief" on BBC1, was an active member of the campaign team.

If people would like to donate to support this groundbreaking research into treating phantom limb pain, they are being asked to visit

The first crowdfunding campaign to fight Phantom Limb Pain

"We are developing 3D holograms to relieve phantom limb pain and we want to have a prototype ready in 30 months' time to be used at home."

About Crowdacure:

Crowdacure is a donation-based crowdfunding platform focused on hard to fund medical research, the first of it's kind. Crowdacure launched in January 2016. Crowdacure is grateful to the members of its Medical Review Board ( for ensuring only valid research projects are offered to the public for funding. This, together with information transparency, a community outreach effort and the power of the crowd can be unleashed to make medical progress happen. Please visit our first two campaigns, and

Sagit Weiss CEO and co-founder

Dr Sagit Weiss, MD, MSc. is a medical doctor and a biologist who has worked for numerous years in the pharmaceutical industry. For a significant part of her life she has dealt with funding medical research, both as an applicant and as a granter. Too many times she has seen, and sometimes experienced with much frustration, important and good medical research that could not find funding. So, when in 2014 she discovered how crowdfunding empowered the wisdom of the crowd she understood there could be a solution to underfunded medical research: partner with the public in order to get a future for medical progress. Sagit was already a fan of "Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations" (James Surowiecki, 2004), thus the next step was easy.

Timo Tuominen, CTO and co-founder

Timo is a software maker with over ten years of experience, working with brands including Samsung, and when he met Sagit at ImpactHub in London he was looking for ways to have the community benefit from his work. Since then, he has discovered the fascinating world of medical research from behind the curtains and he has become passionate about making difficult to fund medical research happen.

About the researchers:

Professor Ali Mousavi

Professor Ali Mousavi
About This Image: Professor Ali Mousavi
Ali Mousavi is a senior lecturer of Systems Engineering and Computing at the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Brunel University.

He trained in Tehran and London. His research interest is in Mathematical Modelling and Simulation, Applied Control and Computing. He is interested in finding technological solutions for improving patients' well-being and treatment in healthcare, increasing safety in aviation and automotive industries, and improving the performance of factories.

His interest in finding a solution for Phantom Limb Pain stems from when he saw his friend's father 30 years ago. The friendly and kind gentleman who had lost his lower limb to diabetes. He would complain about sensations and pain from something that did not exist. At the time we thought he had gone "crazy"!

Professor Jonathan Cole

Jonathan Cole
About This Image: Jonathan Cole
Jonathan Cole is a consultant in Clinical Neurophysiology at Poole Hospital and professor at the University of Bournemouth. He trained in Oxford and London.

His research has been in spinal cord injury and pain, tremor, and in sensory loss and its consequences, including a Wellcome Trust funded project on the use of VR in phantom limb pain. In addition to empirical research he also has an interest in the subjective experience of neurological impairment and has studied with Oliver Sacks. His books include Pride and Daily Marathon, on Ian Waterman who lives without proprioception, Still Lives (on spinal cord injury) and The Invisible Smile, on living without facial expression.

He is a past-President of the British Society for Clinical Neurophysiology, was chair of the world conference in Clinical Neurophysiology in 2006 and is at present Secretary of the European Chapter of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology.

Dr Rafiq Swash

Dr Rafiq Swash
About This Image: Dr Rafiq Swash
Dr Rafiq Swash leads 3D research group and is a seasoned professional with over 10 years of working experiences in international gaming industries, academia and world class research centres. He has years of professional experience working for international gaming companies such as IGT and Entertain Group. Dr Swash's experience of working with digital focused EU research projects such as RUSHES (FP6-045189-STREP) and 3DVIVANT.EU (FP6-IST-7-248420-STREP) led him to pursue an interest in Digital Media.

Dr Swash is an academic lecturer at Brunel University London in the field of Digital Media and 3D technologies. He is also the academic advisor and expert consultant for robotics and military research companies. In the past, He has worked as a senior software engineer, implementation manager, technical lead, senior technology architect in game designs and innovations as well as research scientist in the field of multimedia search and retrieval, financial computing in risk operations, 3D imaging and display technologies. He is a recipient of many outstanding awards such as Prestigious VC's doctoral research prize, Best Paper award of IEEE BTS 2013, Best final year project prize, Graham Hawkes prize, and the University Medal for overall excellent achievement. Dr Swash's research interests include a variety of three-dimensional, multimedia, video and game-focused areas.

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