Dirk De Ridder.
Dreams can unlock ways of curing both phantom pain and
tinnitus, the head of Dunedin's neurosurgery research unit
Belgian neurosurgeon Prof Dirk De Ridder, who took up a
Dunedin Hospital post in February as head of neurosurgery,
gave his inaugural lecture professorial lecture - ''To dream
is to cure phantoms'' - in Dunedin last night.
Prof De Ridder, who also leads the new University of Otago
academic neurosurgery research unit, the first of its kind in
the country, told the audience of about 140 that the brain
acted as a ''prediction machine''.
Tinnitus, or phantom sound, and phantom pain - which is
suffered by some people who have had amputations - were
''prediction errors'' caused by a lack of information.
''The brain cannot stand a lack information. If it doesn't
have information, then it goes and looks for information and
if there is not enough it will go to memory.''
''So when your hand is amputated or your hearing is gone ...
your brain goes back to memory and pulls back the last stored
[memory] and that's going to be the phantom pain ... or the
phantom sound,'' Prof De Ridder said.
In the case of tinnitus, which occurred after people lost
hearing at a specific frequency, the brain re-created the
lost frequency from memory.
''The prediction says [for example] there should be 4000
hertz in,'' he said.
However, almost all people who suffered from phantom pain or
tinnitus did not experience it in their dreams.
If aspects of the ''dream state'' could be replicated, this
could be used to help combat phantom pain and tinnitus, Prof
De Ridder said.