New study by University of Manchester psychologists has shown that imitation of movement can help people with Parkinson's.
Dr. Ellen Poliakoff and Dr. Judith Bek, whose paper appears in the print version of the Journal of Neuropsychology, are on the team of this pioneering Economic and Social Research Council funded study.
The research compared the responses of 23 individuals with mild to moderate Parkinson's and 24 individuals with no condition.
A computer-based task revealed that viewing another person's movement on screen affected the participants' own movements, in a similar way for those with and without Parkinson's.
This response is thought to tap into a process that is involved when we inadvertently mimic other people during social interaction.
Participants pressed a button as quickly as possible after viewing a human finger that moved upward or downward. This meant that it either matched or mismatched the participant's own movement.
Because there was no difference between the two groups, the researchers argue that the results show that movement is still triggered in people with Parkinson's when they see someone else move.
This may help them to practice and improve their own movements.
Dr. Poliakoff said:"These findings are the first unambiguous demonstration of imitative priming in both people with Parkinson's and healthy older adults.
"And that has implications for therapeutic techniques to facilitate action. Because imitation is important socially, it may also help us understand how people with Parkinson's interact with other people."
Now the group, in cooperation with Professor Paul Holmes in Manchester Metropolitan University, have developed an app to allow patients to train actions at home.
The program, which is to be trialled soon, uses videos to assist people with Parkinson's improve everyday activities like fastening buttons, turning pages, and cutting up food.
Dr. Bek explained:"It's about watching and imaging movements to help with performing everyday actions.
"Our research has found that it should be possible to help people with Parkinson's using imitation and this new app will be able to tell us if it is feasible to put these ideas into practice"
Dr. Matthew Sullivan, a senior lecturer from Manchester Metropolitan University, has Parkinson's has been helping to develop the app. Matthew said:"This app has been co-designed with people with Parkinson's right from the outset to ensure it's very user-friendly and appropriate."