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Motor imagery during action observation enhances hamstring strength: an acute non-physical intervention

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Daniel EavesORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Taylor & Francis, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Purpose: Rehabilitation professionals typically use motor imagery (MI) or action observation (AO) to increase physical strength for injury prevention and recovery. Here we compared hamstring force gains for MI during AO (AO+MI) against two pure MI training groups. Materials and methods: Over a three-week intervention physically-fit adults imagined Nordic hamstring exercises in both legs simultaneously, and synchronised this with a demonstration of the same action (AO+MI), or purely imagined this action (pure MI), or imagined upper-limb actions (pure MI-control). Eccentric hamstring strength gains were assessed using ANOVAs, and magnitude-based inference (MBI) analyses determined the likelihood of clinical/practical benefits for the interventions. Results: Hamstring strength only increased significantly following AO+MI training. This effect was lateralised to the right leg, potentially reflecting a left-hemispheric dominance in motor simulation. MBIs: The right leg within-group treatment effect size for AO+MI was moderate and likely beneficial (d = 0.36), and only small and possibly beneficial for pure MI (0.23). Relative to pure MI-control, effects were possibly beneficial and moderate for AO+MI (0.72), though small for pure MI (0.39). Conclusions: Since hamstring strength predicts injury prevalence, our findings point to the advantage of combined AO+MI interventions, over and above pure MI, for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Scott MW, Taylor S, Chesterton P, Vogt S, Eaves DL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Disability and Rehabilitation

Year: 2018

Volume: 40

Issue: 12

Pages: 1443-1451

Online publication date: 21/03/2017

Acceptance date: 23/02/2017

Date deposited: 04/11/2021

ISSN (print): 0963-8288

ISSN (electronic): 1464-5165

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1300333


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