Examining the Action Observation and Motor Imagery Ability of Typically Developing Children and Children with unilateral Cerebral Palsy

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Motor Imagery (MI) describes the internal simulation of executing a motor action without producing motor output and is used to improve motor functions in stroke patients. Studies addressing the effect of MI-based interventions in children with unilateral Cerebral Palsy (uCP) are rare and hint at a compromised MI ability. Another technique to improve motor performance without executing a movement is action observation (AO). Previous studies have shown promising results for improving motor skills of patients with uCP by AO. To determine the AO and MI capacity in typically developing children and in children with uCP, two studies were conducted. In study one, the effect of age on the AO and MI ability in typically developed children (aged six to twelve years) was examined. In study two, the AO and MI ability in children with uCP (aged eight to eighteen years) was examined. In both studies, the EEG signal was recorded, and the mu rhythm was examined during a baseline, an AO, a ME (motor execution) and an AO+MI condition. In typically developing children, mu suppression was observed in all experimental conditions. No effect of age on the mu rhythm was observed. In children with uCP, mu suppression was observed during all experimental conditions, however during AO+MI mu suppression was only observed over the non-affected hemisphere. The affected hemisphere only showed mu suppression during ME and AO. Our findings suggest that AO is beneficial in children with uCP. Further research concerning the role of the affected hemisphere during MI is needed.
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