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Combined action observation and motor imagery therapy: a novel method for post-stroke motor rehabilitation

School of Health and Social Care, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK

Cerebral vascular accidents (strokes) are a leading cause of motor deficiency in millions of people worldwide. While a complex range of biological systems is affected following a stroke, in this paper we focus primarily on impairments of the motor system and the recovery of motor skills. We briefly review research that has assessed two types of mental practice, which are currently recommended in stroke rehabilitation. Namely, action observation (AO) therapy and motor imagery (MI) training. We highlight the strengths and limitations in both techniques, before making the case for combined action observation and motor imagery (AO + MI) therapy as a potentially more effective method. This is based on a growing body of multimodal brain imaging research showing advantages for combined AO + MI instructions over the two separate methods of AO and MI. Finally, we offer a series of suggestions and considerations for how combined AO + MI therapy could be employed in neurorehabilitation.
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