ABSTRACT: Perceptual illusions described in healthy subjects undergoing regional anesthesia (RA) are probably related to short-term plastic brain changes. We addressed whether performance on an implicit mental rotation task reflects these RA-induced changes in body schema brain representations. Studying these changes in healthy volunteers may shed light on normal function and the central mechanisms of pain.
Performance pattern was studied in upper limb-anesthetized subjects on a left/right hand judgment task, which is known to involve motor imagery processes relating to hand posture. Three conditions were used: control (i.e., absence of deafferentation), RA (i.e., deafferentation), and vision (i.e., deafferentated limb exposed to view). To limit potential bias such as order effect, the control state was recorded in a randomized manner.
All subjects described perceptual illusions of their anesthetized limb. They were slower and less accurate on the task during RA compared with control. Response patterns were similar in all conditions, suggesting sensitivity of performance to arm/hand biomechanical constraints. Vision was associated with an increase in the proportion of correct responses and a reduction of the response times in hand judgment and was accompanied by disappearance of the lateralization of the underlying mental representations, which was identified during RA.
These results suggest the following: (1) the right/left judgment task involves mental simulation of hand movements, (2) underlying mental representations and their neural substrates are subject to acute alterations after RA, and (3) the proprioceptive deficit induced by RA is influenced by the subject's ability to see the anesthetized limb.
Anesthesiology 01/2011; 114(1):126-34. · 5.36 Impact Factor