A proposal for new neurorehabilitative intervention on Moebius Syndrome patients after ‘smile surgery’. Proof of concept based on mirror neuron system properties and hand-mouth synergistic activity

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Abstract

Studies of the last twenty years on the motor and premotor cortices of primates demonstrated that the motor system is involved in the control and initiation of movements, and in higher cognitive processes, such as action understanding, imitation, and empathy. Mirror neurons are only one example of such theoretical shift. Their properties demonstrate that motor and sensory processing are coupled in the brain. Such knowledge has been also central for designing new neurorehabilitative therapies for patients suffering from brain injuries and consequent motor deficits. Moebius Syndrome patients, for example, are incapable of moving their facial muscles, which are fundamental for affective communication. These patients face an important challenge after having undergone a corrective surgery: reanimating the transplanted muscles to achieve a voluntarily control of smiling. We propose two new complementary rehabilitative approaches on MBS patients based on observation/imitation therapy (Facial Imitation Therapy, FIT) and on hand-mouth motor synergies (Synergistic Activity Therapy, SAT). Preliminary results show that our intervention protocol is a promising approach for neurorehabilitation of patients with facial palsy.

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