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Training Videos Seem to Boost Brain Activity

Stroke patients, others who must relearn motor skills might benefit from findings, researchers say


"It just shows how plastic the brain is, that even observing activity can remodel the brain," said Dr. Glen Finney, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. "That suggests we have a lot more ability to change the brain even with low-level rehabilitation therapies than people appreciate. I was surprised they got that much change over a short period of time."

Improvements in motor function might also have occurred because of activation of the brain's "mirror neuron system," Preziosa said.

"Several ... studies demonstrated that [mirror neuron system] neurons discharge not only when an individual performs a specific goal-directed action, but also when an individual observes actions made by other individuals, implying an involvement of this system in imitation and motor learning," he said.

In other words, these mirror neurons might help people learn new skills through observation and imitation.

Although the Italian researchers were specifically interested in the use of these videos in brain rehabilitation, Finney said their findings could apply to anyone preparing to try something new.

"It does suggest that this may be a good way to start," he said. "Especially for people who aren't ready to do the actual activity, it may be the best way to prepare."

But, he added, observation has its limits when it comes to training.

"We certainly know this kind of training is not enough in and of itself to learn new abilities," Finney said. "Otherwise we'd all be skiing like Olympians."

Data and conclusions presented at meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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