Mirror training to augment cross-education during resistance training: a hypothesis

Glyn Howatson*, Tjerk Zult, Jonathan P. Farthing, Inge Zijdewind, Tibor Hortobagyi

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Abstract

    Resistance exercise has been shown to be a potent stimulus for neuromuscular adaptations. These adaptations are not confined to the exercising muscle and have been consistently shown to produce increases in strength and neural activity in the contralateral, homologous resting muscle; a phenomenon known as cross-education. This observation has important clinical applications for those with unilateral dysfunction given that cross education increases strength and attenuates atrophy in immobilized limbs. Previous evidence has shown that these improvements in the transfer of strength are likely to reside in areas of the brain, some of which are common to the mirror neuron system (MNS). Here we examine the evidence for the, as yet, untested hypothesis that cross education might benefit from observing our own motor action in a mirror during unimanual resistance training, there by activating the MNS. The hypothesis is based on neuro anatomical evidence suggesting brain areas relating to the MNS are activated when a unilateral motor task is performed with a mirror. This theory is timely because of the growing body of evidence relating to the efficacy of cross-education. Hence, we consider the clinical applications of mirror training as an adjuvant intervention to cross-education in order to engage the MNS, which could further improve strength and reduce a trophy in dysfunctional limbs during rehabilitation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number396
    Number of pages11
    JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
    Volume7
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 24-Jul-2013

    Keywords

    • mirror neuron system
    • rehabilitation
    • recovery
    • contralateral adaptations
    • strength training
    • TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION
    • RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED-TRIAL
    • MOTOR CORTEX EXCITABILITY
    • UNIT DISCHARGE RATE
    • CORTICOSPINAL EXCITABILITY
    • FINGER MOVEMENTS
    • NEURAL ADAPTATIONS
    • OLDER-ADULTS
    • HAND ACTIONS
    • HUMAN-BRAIN

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