Functional Correlates of Action Observation of Gait in Patients with Parkinson's Disease

Giulia Bommarito, Martina Putzolu, Laura Avanzino, Carola Cosentino, Alessandro Botta, Roberta Marchese, Matilde Inglese, Elisa Pelosin

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5 Scopus citations


Background. Action observation (AO) relies on the mirror neuron system (MNS) and has been proposed as a rehabilitation tool in Parkinson's disease (PD), in particular for gait disorder such as freezing of gait (FOG). In this study, we aimed to explore the brain functional correlates of the observation of human gait in PD patients with (FOG+) and without (FOG-) FOG and to investigate a possible relationship between AO-induced brain activation and gait performance. Methods. Fifty-four participants were enrolled in the study (15 PD FOG+; 18 PD FOG-; 21 healthy subjects (HS)) which consisted of two tasks in two separate days: (i) gait assessment and (ii) task-fMRI during AO of gait. Differences between patients with PD (FOG+ and FOG-) and HS were assessed at the level of behavioral and functional analysis. Results. Gait parameters, including gait velocity, stride length, and their coefficients of variability (CV), were different in PD patients compared to HS, whereas gait performance was similar between FOG+ and FOG-. The PD group, compared to HS, presented reduced functional activation in the frontal, cingulum, and parietooccipital regions. Reduced activity was more pronounced in the FOG+ group, compared to both HS and FOG- groups. Gait variability positively correlated with precuneus neural activity in the FOG+ group. Discussion. Patients with PD present a reduced functional activity during AO of gait, especially if FOG+. A baseline knowledge of the neural correlates of AO of gait in the clinical routine "on"status would help for the design of future AO rehabilitative interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8869201
JournalNeural Plasticity
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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