Could Stroke Rehab Patients Benefit from Watching Others?

Neurology research continues to provide fascinating insights into the amazing versatility of the human brain. Recently, using MRI imaging, a University of Southern California team found that when a person who has suffered a stroke watches another person performing tasks that would be difficult for the patient—for example, using a pencil—their strongest brain activity occurs in the damaged region that would be used perform the action they are observing. Could this finding lead to new therapies promoting a more rapid rehabilitation curve for people who have had a stroke?

Explains Carolee Weinstein, director of the USC Motor Behavior and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory, “It’s like you’re priming the pump. You’re getting these circuits engaged through the action observation before they even attempt to move.” She describes the process as being “a kind of virtual exercise program for the brain that prepares you for the real exercise that includes the brain and body.” Study author Kathleen Garrison of Yale University School of Medicine says, “If we can help drive plasticity in these brain regions, we may be able to help individuals with stroke recover more ability.” The study appeared in the journal Stroke [add link to: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/06/06/STROKEAHA.113.001105.abstract].

Source: AgeWise reporting on study from University of Southern California