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Front. Neurol. | doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.00105

Postural stabilisation strategies to motor contagion induced by action observation are impaired in Parkinson disease

  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics and Maternal Child Health, Università di Genova, Italy
  • 2Ospedale San Martino (IRCCS), Italy
  • 3Department of Experimental Medicine, Section of Human Physiology and Centro Polifunzionale di Scienze Motorie,, Università di Genova, Italy
  • 4INSERM U1093 Université de Bourgogne Franche Comté, France
  • 5Center for Translational Neurophysiology, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italy

Postural reactions can be influenced by concomitant tasks or different contexts and are modulated by a higher order motor control. Recent studies investigated postural changes determined by motor contagion induced by action observation (chameleon effect) showing that observing a model in postural disequilibrium induces an increase in healthy subjects’ body sway.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with postural instability and impairments in cognitively controlled balance tasks. However, no studies investigated if viewing postural imbalance might influence postural stability in PD and if patients are able to inhibit a visually-induced postural perturbation. In this study an action observation paradigm for assessing postural reaction to motor contagion in PD subjects and healthy older adults was used.
Postural stability changes were measured during the observation of a static stimulus (control condition) and during a point-light display of a gymnast balancing on a rope (biological stimulus) Our results showed that, during the observation of the biological stimulus, sway area and antero-posterior and medio-lateral displacements of center of pressure significantly increased only in PD participants, whereas correct stabilization reactions were present in elderly subjects.
These results demonstrate that PD leads to a decreased capacity to control automatic imitative tendencies induced by motor contagion. This behavior could be the consequence either of an inability to inhibit automatic imitative tendencies or of the cognitive load requested by the task. Whatever the case, the issue about the ability to inhibit automatic imitative tendencies could be crucial for PD patients since it might increase falls risk and injuries.

Keywords: Parkinson Disease, action observation, motor contagion, postural stabilization strategies, Biological motion, Chamaleon effect

Received: 12 Sep 2017; Accepted: 13 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Pille Taba, University of Tartu, Estonia

Reviewed by:

Roberto Erro, Università degli Studi di Salerno, Italy
Angela Marotta, University of Verona, Italy  

Copyright: © 2018 Pelosin, Bisio, Pozzo, Lagravinese, Crisafulli, Marchese, Abbruzzese and Avanzino. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Elisa Pelosin, PELOSIN., Università di Genova, Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics and Maternal Child Health, Largo Daneo 3 (ex via de toni 5), Genova, Genoa, 16132, Genova (GE), Italy,