Motor Planning and Cerebral Palsy

Motor Planning and Cerebral Palsy

Motor Planning and Cerebral Palsy

The Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology recently published longitudinal research on motor planning and cerebral palsy.  Motor planning is the ability to plan out all the steps required for a motor action and carry out each step in the correct order.  It is important to have efficient motor planning to produce coordinated movements.  The researchers defined motor planning as “selecting a single pattern of behavior from many alternatives that allows the performer to achieve a task goal”.  This study included 22 children with cerebral palsy and 22 age-matched controls.   Each participant performed a bar transport task in which some conditions (“critical angles”) required participants to sacrifice initial posture comfort in order to achieve end-state comfort.  The longitudinal study was carried out with three measurements each separated by one year.  The following results were reported:

  • children with CP showed poor end-state planning for critical angles.
  • unlike in controls, motor planning ability did not improve across the three measurement occasions in children with CP.

The researchers concluded that children with cerebral palsy may have motor planning deficits that do not resolve with development over childhood.

Suggested Strategies for Intervention

Some research suggests that children with cerebral palsy may improve motor planning skills through training due to plasticity in the brain.  Current training for motor planning includes physical training and environmental stimulation.  New research with adults following brain injury and children with congenital motor disorders indicated two beneficial types of motor planning training:

  1. Motor Imagery – internal rehearsal of a future motor action without overt motor output.  Motor imagery requires the conscious activation of brain regions that are also involved in the actual movement preparation and execution.
  2. Action Observation – observation of the action performed by someone.

Deficits in motor planning in children with cerebral palsy do not appear to resolve throughout development.  Researchers suggest physical training, environmental stimulation, motor imagery and action observation to help with motor planning and cerebral palsy.

Reference: Lust, J. M., Spruijt, S., Wilson, P. H., & Steenbergen, B. (2017). Motor planning in children with cerebral palsy: A longitudinal perspective. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 1-8.

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Motor Planning and Cerebral Palsy