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Can a single session of motor imagery promote motor learning of locomotion in older adults? A randomized controlled trial

Authors Nicholson VP, Keogh JWL, Low Choy NL

Received 2 February 2018

Accepted for publication 24 February 2018

Published 23 April 2018 Volume 2018:13 Pages 713—722


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Vaughan P Nicholson,1 Justin WL Keogh,2–4 Nancy L Low Choy1

1School of Physiotherapy, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia; 2Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Robina, QLD, Australia; 3Human Potential Centre, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand; 4Cluster for Health Improvement, Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast, QLD, Australia

Purpose: To investigate the influence of a single session of locomotor-based motor imagery training on motor learning and physical performance.
Patients and methods:
Thirty independent adults aged >65 years took part in the randomized controlled trial. The study was conducted within an exercise science laboratory. Participants were randomly divided into three groups following baseline locomotor testing: motor imagery training, physical training, and control groups. The motor imagery training group completed 20 imagined repetitions of a locomotor task, the physical training group completed 20 physical repetitions of a locomotor task, and the control group spent 25 minutes playing mentally stimulating games on an iPad. Imagined and physical performance times were measured for each training repetition. Gait speed (preferred and fast), timed-up-and-go, gait variability and the time to complete an obstacle course were completed before and after the single training session.
Results: Motor learning occurred in both the motor imagery training and physical training groups. Motor imagery training led to refinements in motor planning resulting in imagined movements better matching the physically performed movement at the end of training. Motor imagery and physical training also promoted improvements in some locomotion outcomes as demonstrated by medium to large effect size improvements after training for fast gait speed and timed-up-and-go. There were no training effects on gait variability.
Conclusion: A single session of motor imagery training promoted motor learning of locomotion in independent older adults. Motor imagery training of a specific locomotor task also had a positive transfer effect on related physical locomotor performance outcomes.

mental practice, gait, elderly, rehabilitation, mobility, motor imagery, motor control

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