Altered updating of bodily and spatial representations after tool-use in complex regional pain syndrome

Axel D Vittersø, Gavin Buckingham, Monika Halicka, Michael J Proulx, Janet H Bultitude

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Distorted representations of the body and peripersonal space are common in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and might modulate its symptoms (eg, asymmetric limb temperature). In pain-free people, such representations are malleable, and update when we interact with objects in our environment (eg, during tool-use). Distortions are also common after immobilisation, but quickly normalise once movement is regained. We tested the hypothesis that people with CRPS have problems updating bodily and spatial representations, which contributes to the maintenance of their distorted representations by preventing normalization. We also explored spatially defined modulations of hand temperature asymmetries, and any influence of updating bodily and spatial representations on this effect. Thirty-six people with unilateral CRPS (18 upper limb and 18 lower limb) and 36 pain-free controls completed tool-use tasks considered to alter body and peripersonal space representations (measured using tactile distance judgements and a visuotactile crossmodal congruency task, respectively). We also tested how the arrangement (crossed and uncrossed) of the hands and tools affected hand temperature. In upper-limb CRPS, the nonaffected arm representation updated normally, but the affected arm representation updated in the opposite to normal direction. A similar pattern was seen in lower-limb CRPS, although not significant. Furthermore, people with CRPS showed more pronounced updating of peripersonal space than the controls. We did not observe any modulation of hand temperature asymmetries by the arrangement of hands or tools. Our findings show enhanced malleability of bodily and spatial representations in CRPS, which may suggest that central mechanisms are altered in this condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1609-1628
Number of pages20
Issue number7
Early online date24 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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