Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Expert Rev Neurother . 2022 Jan;22(1):43-51. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2022.2018301. Epub 2021 Dec 28.

Motor imagery and gait control in Parkinson’s disease: techniques and new perspectives in neurorehabilitation

Introduction: Motor imagery (MI), defined as the ability to mentally represent an action without actual movement, has been used to improve motor function in athletes and, more recently, in neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD). Several studies have investigated the neural correlates of motor imagery, which change also depending on the action imagined.

Areas covered: This review focuses on locomotion, which is a crucial activity in everyday life and is often impaired by neurological conditions. After a general discussion on the neural correlates of motor imagery and locomotion, we review the evidence highlighting the abnormalities in gait control and gait imagery in PD patients. Next, new perspectives and techniques for PD patients' rehabilitation are discussed, namely Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs), neurofeedback, and virtual reality (VR).

Expert opinion: Despite the few studies, the literature review supports the potential beneficial effects of motor imagery interventions in PD focused on locomotion. The development of new technologies could empower the administration of training based on motor imagery locomotor tasks, and their application could lead to new rehabilitation protocols aimed at improving walking ability in patients with PD.

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