Massachusetts doctor rare condition helps patients’ pain


A Massachusetts doctor’s rare condition is aiding him to feel what his patients experience.

Dr. Joe Salinas, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, is suffering from an extremely rare condition known as mirror-touch synesthesia. He is able to have physical sensations of what his patients’ experience.

“When I see people, I have the sensation of whatever touches their body on my own body as well and it’s kind of reflected as a mirror,” Salinas explained.
“When I was a kid, having these expressions where if I would see someone hug I would feel the hug on myself or if I would see someone get hit, I felt the sensation on me as well,” he said.

Mirror-touch synesthesia is a rare condition which causes individuals to experience same sensation that another person feels. For example, if someone were to observe someone touching their palm, they would feel the same sensation on their palm.

According to a study, about 1-2 percent of the total population experiences mirror-touch synesthesia. The condition has been strongly associated with amputation. About 98 % of amputees report phantom sensations in their amputated limb.

Even without the condition, people at some stage of life feel others sensation due to the activation of the same body response that would be used if they were in pain themselves. Approximately 30 % of the normal population experience some form of this condition and about 16 % of amputees suffer synesthetic pain after an amputation.

The reason behind such sensations is unknown but researchers have two main theories; people may have hyperactive neurons or they possibly can’t distinguish themselves from other people. The neurologist is quite happy to experience his patients’ feelings and he considers his mirror-touch synesthesia as an asset. IMAGE/foxnews