Thursday, 11 October 2007

Phantom ...Organs

From Cosmos Magazine:
Similar to the phantom limb syndrome, the sensation of a 'phantom penis' in post-operative heterosexual and transsexual men is providing insights into the how gender-specific body images are hard-wired at birth.

Experts at the University of California in San Diego, USA, found that 60 per cent of interviewed heterosexual men who had their genitals surgically removed following cancer claimed to continue to experience the sensation of having a penis.

Intriguingly, the same study showed that only 30 per cent of originally male transsexuals, whose genitals had been removed as part of gender reassignment, reported the same phenomenon.

"We explain the absence or presence of phantoms in these subjects by postulating a hardwired gender-specific body image in the brain that does not match the external [birth] gender" said lead author and phantom limb expert Vilayanur Ramachandran. He argues that before birth the brain may develop an image of the body that may not necessarily match the physiological outcome.
Now that you mention it, yes. I've blogged about this phenomenon in my case before. Not that I had a "phantom" anything, just that my body image lacked external genitalia. Which led to some unfortunate and extremely painful incidents when young.

Another piece of the puzzle.


lizthegrey said...

The problem with the UCSD research is that SRS is not a simple removal of genitals; instead, it maps virtually all the sensate tissue onto the vulva, so there is no 'phantom' sensation, only real sensation.

Zoe Brain said...

Not everyone goes to Dr Suporn.

There are still plenty of surgeons in the US and Europe to whom "penectomy" is exactly that, with no attempt to preserve neurology.

20 years ago, the situation was worse.

I'd be interested to see if there was any correlation between surgical technique used and the reported sensations.

Anonymous said...

"Which led to some unfortunate and extremely painful incidents when young."


Zoe Brain said...

Think zip flies. And other incidents where I plain forgot I had anything there, until reminded by it getting in the way.