Researchers have found that rehabilitation therapy targeting involuntary hand movements may benefit children living with a form of cerebral palsy that affects the one side of the body.
The study, carried out by a team from Germany’s Clinic for Neuropaediatrics and Neurorehabilitation, looked at a type of the condition known as unilateral cerebral palsy (UCP), which impairs motor functions on the one side of the body alone. Children who have been diagnosed with UCP can sometimes experience ‘mirror movements’.
In regards to this form of cerebral palsy, a ‘mirror movement’ is defined as an intended movement in one hand, triggering an unintended movement in the other. The combination of the paralysis brought on by the unilateral cerebral palsy and the mirror movements make tasks that require the use of both hands particularly difficult.
As part of the research, the team from Germany trained twelve children living with the condition to suppress the mirror movements in order to perform certain activities. This involved repeated motion with one hand, while producing as little contraction as possible with the other.
The research took place over the course of three weeks and involved daily therapy sessions with a trained physiotherapist, comprising of two hours on an individual basis and two hours as a group.
Despite there being no improvements in the frequency with which the mirror hand movements occurred, after 13 days of therapy the children taking part had made significant progress in the performance of two-handed activities.
In their report, published in the journal Developmental Neurorehabilitation, the researchers wrote: “The major finding of our study was that our approach of targeted bimanual therapy of children with UCP and mirror movement achieved a significant and long-lasting improvement of bimanual performance.”