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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

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People learning a new skill might pick it up more quickly by watching videos of other people performing the same task, a small new study suggests.

People who viewed training videos experienced 11 times greater improvement in their motor skills than people not provided the videos, the Italian research team reported.

Further, MRI scans revealed that the training videos appeared to boost the brain structure of the people who watched them, increasing the size of portions of the brain related to motor control and visual processing.

These findings suggest that such videos could help in the rehabilitation of stroke victims or people who suffer from motor neuron diseases such as multiple sclerosis, said co-author Dr. Paolo Preziosa, a neurologist at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy.

"Evidence suggests that this approach is an effective therapeutic intervention for regaining motor function," Preziosa said. It might become a good strategy to use along with conventional physical and occupational therapy to help people with motor deficits, he said.

The study is scheduled for presentation at the annual American Academy of Neurology meeting in Philadelphia in April.

In the study, 36 healthy adults took part in 10 training sessions over two weeks.

All were asked to perform simple tasks with their dominant right hand, after receiving a full explanation of what each task entailed. These tasks included using cutlery, writing with a pen, using scissors, hammering a nail, typing and playing notes on a piano.

But half the group watched videos beforehand of other people performing the same tasks, Preziosa said. The other half watched videos of landscapes.

After two weeks, the group given training videos experienced a tremendous improvement in their motor skills, mainly in terms of strength.

Specific regions of their brains also appeared to change, as they experienced increases in the volume of the cuneus and insula. The cuneus plays a role in visual processing, while the insula is related to motor control and cognitive functioning.

One expert said he was surprised by the extent of the findings.

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