Publicaties 2013

Assessment of motor imagery in cerebral palsy via mental chronometry: The case of walking


Recent studies show varying results on whether motor imagery capacity is compromised in individuals with cerebral palsy (CP). Motor imagery studies in children predominantly used the implicit hand laterality task. In this task participants judge the laterality of displayed hand stimuli. A more explicit way of studying motor imagery is mental chronometry. This paradigm is based on the comparison between the movement durations of actually performing a task and imagining the same task.

The current study explored motor imagery capacity in CP by means of mental chronometry of a whole body task. Movement durations of 20 individuals with CP (mean age = 13 years, SD = 3.6) were recorded in two conditions: actual walking and imagined walking. Six unique trajectories were used that varied in difficulty via manipulation of walking distance and path width.

We found no main effect of condition (actual walking versus imagining) on movement durations. Difficulty of the walking trajectory did affect movement durations. In general, this was expressed by an increase in movement durations with increasing difficulty of the task. No interaction between task difficulty and movement condition was found. Our results show that task difficulty has similar effects on movement durations for both actual walking and imagined walking. These results exemplify that the tested individuals were able to use motor imagery in an explicit task involving walking. Previous studies using the implicit hand laterality task showed varying results on motor imagery capacity in CP. We therefore conclude that motor imagery capacity is task dependent and that an explicit paradigm as the one used in this study may reveal the true motor imagery capacity. The implications of these findings for the use of motor imagery training are discussed.