A systematic review of mirror neuron system function in developmental coordination disorder: Imitation, motor imagery, and neuroimaging evidence
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Purpose: The aim of this systematic review was to investigate the evidence of abnormal functioning of the mirror neuron system (MNS) in children and adults with developmental coordination disorder (DCD), through examination of imitation, motor imagery, and neuroimaging literature. Methods: The following databases were comprehensively searched for relevant articles: CINAHL Plus, Embase, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Pubmed, and Web of Science. Full-text articles of all potentially relevant citations were obtained and assessed for eligibility by two authors. Outcome measures of interest at a motor behaviour level were any measures of imitation or motor imagery proficiency and, at a neurological level, were any measures of neural activity in MNS brain regions. Due to differences in outcome measures between studies and the variables reported, a narrative review was undertaken to synthesise findings from the studies. Results: Overall, 31 articles met the inclusion criteria. Children and adults with DCD display deficits imitating meaningful and novel gestures and demonstrate different response patterns to controls when undertaking complex motor imagery tasks. Children with DCD present reduced activation and connectivity of frontal, parietal, and temporal MNS regions. Conclusions: Preliminary evidence indicates some deficit in the functioning of the MNS at a motor behaviour and neurological level. As no published neuroimaging studies have been designed specifically to explore MNS function, these results must be interpreted with caution. Further research to explore the MNS hypothesis in greater detail, particularly from a neuroimaging perspective, has the potential to provide information on the underlying mechanisms of DCD, inform future research into the aetiology of this disorder, and inform intervention approaches.
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