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Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

Observation and execution of upper-limb movements as a tool for rehabilitation of motor deficits in paretic stroke patients: protocol of a randomized clinical trial

Denis Ertelt1, Claudia Hemmelmann2, Christian Dettmers3, Andreas Ziegler2 and Ferdinand Binkofski4*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Clinical Trials, University of Lübeck, Maria-Goeppert-Straße 1, 23562, Lübeck, Germany

2 Institute of Medical Biometry and Statistics, University of Lübeck, University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein - Campus Lübeck, Maria-Goeppert-Straße 1, 23562, Lübeck, Germany

3 Kliniken Schmieder Konstanz, Eichhornstraße 68, 78464, Constance, Germany

4 Cognitive Neurology, Department of Neurology, RWTH Aachen University Hospital, Pauwelsstraße 30, 52074, Aachen, Germany

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BMC Neurology 2012, 12:42  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-42

Published: 18 June 2012

Abstract

Background

Evidence exist that motor observation activates the same cortical motor areas that are involved in the performance of the observed actions. The so called “mirror neuron system” has been proposed to be responsible for this phenomenon. We employ this neural system and its capability to re-enact stored motor representations as a tool for rehabilitating motor control. In our new neurorehabilitative schema (videotherapy) we combine observation of daily actions with concomitant physical training of the observed actions focusing on the upper limbs. Following a pilot study in chronic patients in an ambulatory setting, we currently designed a new multicenter clinical study dedicated to patients in the sub-acute state after stroke using a home-based self-induced training. Within our protocol we assess 1) the capability of action observation to elicit rehabilitational effects in the motor system, and 2) the capacity of this schema to be performed by patients without assistance from a physiotherapist. The results of this study would be of high health and economical relevance.

Methods/design

A controlled, randomized, multicenter, paralleled, 6 month follow-up study will be conducted on three groups of patients: one group will be given the experimental treatment whereas the other two will participate in control treatments. All patients will undergo their usual rehabilitative treatment beside participation in the study. The experimental condition consists in the observation and immediate imitation of common daily hand and arm actions. The two parallel control groups are a placebo group and a group receiving usual rehabilitation without any trial-related treatment. Trial randomization is provided via external data management. The primary efficacy endpoint is the improvement of the experimental group in a standardized motor function test (Wolf Motor Function Test) relative to control groups. Further assessments refer to subjective and qualitative rehabilitational scores. This study has been reviewed and approved by the ethics committee of Aachen University.

Discussion

This therapy provides an extension of therapeutic procedures for recovery after stroke and emphasizes the importance of action perception in neurorehabilitation The results of the study could become implemented into the wide physiotherapeutic practice, for example as an ad on and individualized therapy.