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Parkinson’s Disease
Volume 2015, Article ID 124214, 9 pages
Review Article

Action Observation and Motor Imagery: Innovative Cognitive Tools in the Rehabilitation of Parkinson’s Disease

1Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics and Maternal Child Health, University of Genoa, 16132 Genoa, Italy
2Department of Experimental Medicine, Section of Human Physiology, University of Genoa, 16132 Genoa, Italy

Received 25 May 2015; Accepted 23 August 2015

Academic Editor: Serene S. Paul

Copyright © 2015 Giovanni Abbruzzese et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by a progressive impairment of motor skills with deterioration of autonomy in daily living activities. Physiotherapy is regarded as an adjuvant to pharmacological and neurosurgical treatment and may provide small and short-lasting clinical benefits in PD patients. However, the development of innovative rehabilitation approaches with greater long-term efficacy is a major unmet need. Motor imagery (MI) and action observation (AO) have been recently proposed as a promising rehabilitation tool. MI is the ability to imagine a movement without actual performance (or muscle activation). The same cortical-subcortical network active during motor execution is engaged in MI. The physiological basis of AO is represented by the activation of the “mirror neuron system.” Both MI and AO are involved in motor learning and can induce improvements of motor performance, possibly mediated by the development of plastic changes in the motor cortex. The review of available evidences indicated that MI ability and AO feasibility are substantially preserved in PD subjects. A few preliminary studies suggested the possibility of using MI and AO as parts of rehabilitation protocols for PD patients.