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Biomed Res. 2019;40(3):107-113. doi: 10.2220/biomedres.40.107.

Effects of motor imagery combined with action observation training on the lateral specificity of muscle strength in healthy subjects.

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Department of Sport and Medical Science, Faculty of Medical Technology, Teikyo University.
Teikyo University Institute of Sports Science & Medicine.
Graduate School of Human Health Sciences, Tokyo Metropolitan University.
Research Center in Back, Neck, Other Joint Pain and Human Performance (BNOJPH), Khon Kaen University.


Unilateral training of both lateral limbs increases unilateral muscle strength, whereas bilateral training increases bilateral muscle strength, a phenomenon known as lateral specificity in resistance training. Although motor imagery (MI) combined with action observation (AO) (i.e., MI + AO) training increases muscle strength, it is not completely understood whether such training increases the lateral specificity of muscle strength in a way resistance training does. To investigate whether MI + AO induces lateral specificity of muscle strength increase, 18 healthy subjects were divided into groups: MI + AO and the control groups. The control group watched a movie of natural sceneries for ten minutes per day five times a week for three weeks, whereas the MI + AO group imagined bilateral shoulder flexion while watching a movie of athletes performing bilateral shoulder flexion with barbells or dumbbells, with the same time schedule. The MI + AO group alone showed a significant increase in bilateral shoulder strength at three weeks after the intervention compared with the baseline. Unilateral shoulder strength was not significantly altered. These results suggest that MI + AO training increases muscle strength, providing evidence that similar to resistance training, lateral specificity also exists in MI + AO training.

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