Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mirror tharapy - not just mind over matter.

© 2006 Rothgangel et al; licensee . This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original URL.

"Mirror therapy or Mirror Visual Feedback (MVF) has shown positive effects in several diseases, as phantom pain, stroke, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
During movement observation using MVF a significant increase in cerebral blood flow was observed in the ventral premotor cortex and, activation in the visual cortex was lateralized opposite to the seen hand.This led to the conclusion that MVF seems to recruit the mirror neuron system more than normal movement observation and can facilitate motor recovery. In addition, MVF possibly can modify the body scheme located in the visual cortex."

These cells or "mirror neurons" were discovered around 1990 in the laboratory of Giacomo Rizzolatti, a neuroscientist at the University of Parma, Italy. Researchers in the laboratory had been studying brain activity in macaque monkeys.
The monkey brain contains a special class of cells, called mirror neurons, that fire when the animal sees or hears an action and when the animal carries out the same action on its own. Monkey see, monkey do.

The human brain has multiple mirror neuron systems that specialize in carrying out and understanding not just the actions of others but their intentions, the social meaning of their behavior and their emotions and pain. Have you ever "felt" it when you saw someone take a rough tackle in football?

It is this aspect of motor neuron activity that is thought to come into play when mirror therapy is used to treat pain and symptoms in CRPS.

The success of Mirror Therapy is not a just a case of mind over matter but a measurable change in neural activity.

The discovery of mirror neurons is revolutionising understanding of how the mind works.

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