Action Observation Treatment Improves Upper Limb Motor Functions in Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Combined Clinical and Brain Imaging Study

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Abstract

The aim of the present study was to assess the role of action observation treatment (AOT) in the rehabilitation of upper limb motor functions in children with cerebral palsy. We carried out a two-group, parallel randomized controlled trial. Eighteen children (aged 5-11 yr) entered the study: 11 were treated children, and 7 served as controls. Outcome measures were scores on two functional scales: Melbourne Assessment of Unilateral Upper Limb Function Scale (MUUL) and the Assisting Hand Assessment (AHA). We collected functional scores before treatment (T1), at the end of treatment (T2), and at two months of follow-up (T3). As compared to controls, treated children improved significantly in both scales at T2 and this improvement persisted at T3. AOT has therefore the potential to become a routine rehabilitation practice in children with CP. Twelve out of 18 enrolled children also underwent a functional magnetic resonance study at T1 and T2. As compared to controls, at T2, treated children showed stronger activation in a parieto-premotor circuit for hand-object interactions. These findings support the notion that AOT contributes to reorganize brain circuits subserving the impaired function rather than activating supplementary or vicariating ones.

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Buccino, G., Molinaro, A., Ambrosi, C., Arisi, D., Mascaro, L., Pinardi, C., … Galli, J. (2018). Action Observation Treatment Improves Upper Limb Motor Functions in Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Combined Clinical and Brain Imaging Study. Neural Plasticity, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/4843985

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