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Motor imagery during action observation enhances imitation in everyday rhythmical actions in children with and without developmental coordination disorder

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Daniel EavesORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) exhibit deficits both in imitation and motor imagery (MI) compared to typically developing children. Combined action observation and motor imagery (AO + MI) instructions can however enhance automatic imitation in both groups. In the present study we investigated the effects of AO + MI instructions on intentional imitation in children both with (n = 13) and without DCD (n = 12). On each trial participants observed and/or imagined before executing a familiar rhythmical pantomime action. These target actions were either habitually fast (tooth brushing or window wiping) or habitually slow (paint brushing or face washing), in the vertical or horizontal plane. Within each habitual speed, the target action speed was subtly manipulated across trials (fast vs. slow). Instruction condition was manipulated across three blocks of 16 trials: (1) observe before imitating the target action; (2) observe then imagine the action before imitating; (3) observe while imagining the same action before imitating (AO + MI). Kinematic analyses revealed typically developing children imitated the observed cycle times significantly better than children with DCD. A main effect of instruction showed imitation improved for AO + MI compared to the other two instructions. Within-group analyses found a significant advantage in DCD for AO + MI compared to observe then imagine. In typically developing children, imitation was significantly enhanced for AO + MI compared to observe then imitate. Combined AO + MI instructions therefore represent a promising new approach to refining performance of everyday rhythmical actions in children both with and without DCD, with implications for movement therapy and sports training. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Publication metadata

Author(s): Scott MW, Emerson JR, Dixon J, Tayler MA, Eaves DL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Movement Science

Year: 2020

Volume: 71

Print publication date: 01/06/2020

Online publication date: 15/04/2020

Acceptance date: 08/04/2020

Date deposited: 04/11/2021

ISSN (print): 0167-9457

ISSN (electronic): 1872-7646

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.humov.2020.102620


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