Following a prolonged period of immobilization the mind is critical in maintaining muscle and the mental imagery may be the key in reducing the associated muscle loss, according to researchers at the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI) at Ohio University.
Researcher Brian C. Clark and his colleagues tested how the brain's cortex plays into strength development and designed an experiment to measure changes in wrist flexor strength in three groups of healthy adults. For 4-weeks, the 29 study subjects wore a rigid cast that extended from just below the elbow past the fingers, effectively immobilizing the hand and wrist, while 15 subjects who did not wear casts served as the control group.
The research team found that neurological mechanisms, most likely at the cortical level, contribute significantly to disuse-induced weakness, and that regular activation of the cortical regions via imagery attenuates weakness. Thus their findings could provide therapeutic intervention for muscle weakness and voluntary neural activation.
The study has been published in the 'Journal of Neurophysiology'.