Saturday, August 15, 2009

Phantom Pain and Python

Been rereading The Brain that Changes Itself (link). A friend had a severe injury a number of years ago, lost two limbs. He experiences phantom pain, where the missing limb hurts or itches. Quite common for amputees. A neurologist figured out a mirror box, where for example if you have one hand amputated, you put the good hand in this box, and you see the mirror image in another compartment. The patient is told to imagine putting his phantom hand in the other compartment.

The movement of the good hand is reflected, and the brain sees the mirror image and gets the impression that the missing hand is moving. People would find the pain and odd feelings from the missing hand go away. About half of the patients treated in this way improved.

The gentleman who figured this out, V. S. Ramachandran says to his students "when you go to meetings, see what direction everyone is headed, so you can go in the opposite direction. Don't polish the brass on the bandwagon". He describes pain as "an opinion on the organism's state of health rather than a mere reflexive response to injury". Out of these insights come therapies that help in dramatic ways.

The energy plus frontend is progressing. I wrote a script that reads the class definition and generates python classes representing all the elements that make up a building simulation. Right now I'm working on models that encapsulate the data for the variety of views that are needed. Andreas Gerber, who teaches building technologies, has contributed code for writing out the definition data from the classes.

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