Restoring Normal Sensations

Does the skin distinguish different colors?

Underappreciated, our skin distinguishes different colors in ways yet to be discovered. For example, our skin distinguishes the feeling of “cold” from “warm” LED lighting. The ratio of blue to red wavelength makes the difference. Light with more blue wavelengths is experienced as cooler even thought its scientific measure of color temperature is warmer.

More than 150-years ago, debates raged about the differences in effects of red vs. blue wavelengths. Blue light was called “actinic rays” for its activation of nerves.

In 1903, Niels Finsen was awarded a Nobel Prize for both the use of blue wavelengths and the exclusion of blue wavelengths (leaving red wavelengths) for different disorders. Read more.

Does varying the wavelength promote increased stimulation?

The Rapid Discovery System efficiently delivers a narrow band of visible wavelengths that are selectively absorbed by different tissues in the skin. Pigments and cell geometry, for example, influence the peak band (frequently only 10nm wide) of wavelengths absorbed. PhotoMed’s therapy continuously varies, with no missing wavelengths, across a range of wavelengths selected by the practitioner.

Varying the wavelength during therapy increases the stimulation compared with any fixed wavelength. The practitioner adjusts the therapy by changing wavelength ranges to increase the likelihood of improving function and achieving a return-toward-normal balance, called homeostasis.

This illustration depicts the expected changing levels of stimulation from fixed and varying wavelengths. For example, consider how you might feel as you continuously varied the temperature of your shower water back and forth between hot to cold.

 A depiction of expected changes in stimulation over time from fixed and varying wavelengths. The strength of effects may depend upon the range of wavelengths selected for any particular impairment during a specific visit.

A depiction of expected changes in stimulation over time from fixed and varying wavelengths. The strength of effects may depend upon the range of wavelengths selected for any particular impairment during a specific visit.

Measuring touch sensations

Pain and/or loss of sensation from diabetes, chemotherapy, and surgeries plague millions of Americans. The loss of sensation associated with long-term diabetes leads to wounds and the amputations. A monofilament test helps to quantify the loss of sensation. “Protective” sensation is usually tested with a 10-gram force (a stiffer filament than the heaviest one shown below).

 These Von Frey filaments test the ability to sense different forces from 0.5 to 5.9 grams. The set is for testing hands. A set with stiffer filaments includes one with a 10 gram force considered the maximum force that is considered to be protective of foot injuries.

These Von Frey filaments test the ability to sense different forces from 0.5 to 5.9 grams. The set is for testing hands. A set with stiffer filaments includes one with a 10 gram force considered the maximum force that is considered to be protective of foot injuries.

Sensation force measurements are taken intermittently rather than continuously, such as with thermal imaging. Also there is frequently a lag of a few minutes for the very first detection of touch in long-term profound loss of sensation in feet. Fingers typically respond quicker. Volunteers frequently find difficulty finding words to describe their experience of returning sensation.

 
 
 
 

Do mapping-errors account for the observed events?

Our brains use maps to identify the location of touch and other signals. The unexpected return of sensation provides insights about the maps that may be locally turned off or misaligned with the actual location being touched. How?

Signals of touch, temperature, and other sensations at a particular location may not end up at the correct locations in the respective maps. The last step, awareness, may become disconnected or misaligned from other sensory functions by mechanisms similar to “blind sight”. (Search terms: cortical representation of touch, homunculus, somatotopic arrangement)

The abrupt return of near-normal sensation baffled our team for years. Our team added a module to the Rapid Discovery System™ to track changes in multiple sources of impairment during and among visits. When such events became more frequent, we temporarily used a birds-eye camera to capture responses that would otherwise be overlooked.

PhotoMed’s real-time recordings reveal events and processes that suggest follow-on studies that include brain imaging. The errors are frequently associated with surgical sites, scars, and reconstructed skin. The pain goes by many names, such as phantom pain, neuropathy, and post-surgical pain.

What are some clues?

Watching sensation unexpectedly return was a baffling event that occurred for a surprising number of volunteers.

Testing of PhotoMed’s therapy using the Rapid Discovery System™ documented the return of sensation in fingers and toes. The return of apparently normal sensation in fingers during a 2-minute treatment typically surprises the volunteer. They begin testing their sensations by touching different fingers together while staring at them. Next some touch different textures to confirm what had just happened. Many declared, “I can’t believe…”

 Brenda (with enthusiastic permission to use her name) checks out the restored feeling in her fingers on her right hand. She lost sensation after surgery on her right elbow. She volunteered for PhotoMed’s study to learn if our then experimental therapy might relieve the pain in her elbow and arm. Brenda reported that she never expected to have normal feeling in her fingers again or to stop dropping things.

Brenda (with enthusiastic permission to use her name) checks out the restored feeling in her fingers on her right hand. She lost sensation after surgery on her right elbow. She volunteered for PhotoMed’s study to learn if our then experimental therapy might relieve the pain in her elbow and arm. Brenda reported that she never expected to have normal feeling in her fingers again or to stop dropping things.


Does the vision system help correct mapping errors?

Multiple sources of impairment resolve at different times

Volunteers typically presented four to six independent sources of pain and impairment. They reported having accumulated their various maladies though independent injuries.

Even within a single person, the timing of improvements and the “before” history for each impairment suggested that the disorders were independent. The Rapid Discovery System™ helps find possibly associated factors overlooked by studies that exclude people with multiple sources of pain and impairment.

Our tools collected data surrounding these events for years before patterns emerged. It took about 15 years for our team to recognized that only the “nothing works” impairments concluded once and for all.

As our real-time recordings grew, we attempted to build models that could predict the outcomes we observed. The responses and outcomes seemed too quick and complete to fit the common notions that healing is a process. Our modeling shifted toward events as an explanation. What could we learn from our already recorded data?


 PhotoMed’s therapy prompts an abrupt return-toward-normal function for impairments for which “nothing works” to relieve the pain. Other types of impairments that improve typically need intermittent therapy to maintain benefit.

PhotoMed’s therapy prompts an abrupt return-toward-normal function for impairments for which “nothing works” to relieve the pain. Other types of impairments that improve typically need intermittent therapy to maintain benefit.

Today, PhotoMed’s tools open new areas of study and care. Who will write the new chapters in textbooks on pain, neuroscience, and the emerging field of neuropsychology?

Other energy-based therapies aimed to restore balance, energy flow, or other names for homeostasis over a course of several visits. Reports of '“miracles” lacked real-time recordings that might have spared the practitioners from unwanted comments and disparagement.

Real-time recordings reveal mapping errors

PhotoMed’s vision and implementation of real-time recordings are the first to reveal possible mechanisms for the events.

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prompts a restart of non-healing wounds. The changes within the wound become visible as the wavelength varies during therapy. At some wavelengths, our eyes easily detect changes during the first minutes of therapy that are initially too subtle to be recorded by standard color and monochrome cameras.

We focus on the first minutes because additional therapy may not be necessary. Typical treatment times total 4 to 6 minutes for moist wounds. Dry wounds generally take longer to observe changes and more dependent upon reports of sensations during treatment.

This venous stasis ulcer example shows visible changes during the first visit. The blue images shows the fresh red material as darker.

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This clip shows the proof-of-concept recording of the same wound during treatment. The camera was handheld which makes the image move around. Although the camera was not able to record fine details, the images confirmed that changes were occurring during the visit. This example, and others encouraged PhotoMed’s team to integrate a better camera into the Rapid Discovery System.

Now available, the Rapid Discovery System™ offers a specialized camera (6 Mpx, HDR monochrome) to record early changes in wounds in real time. Later examination is simplified with synchronous playback of the special camera, the thermal imaging camera, web cam, sound, and information from the Vari-Chrome™ Pro.