Action observation (AO) and motor imagery (MI) are used for the rehabilitation of patients who face difficulty walking. Rehabilitation involving AO, MI, and AO combined with MI (AO +MI) facilitates gait recovery after neurological disorders. However, the mechanism by which it positively affects gait function is unclear. We previously examined the neural mechanisms underlying AO and MI of walking, focusing on AO+MI and corticospinal and spinal motor neuron excitability, which play important roles in gait function. Herein, we investigated the effects of a short intervention using AO+MI of walking on the corticospinal and spinal motor neuron excitability and MI ability of participants. Twelve healthy individuals participated in this study, which consisted of a 20 min intervention. Before the experiment, we measured MI ability using the Vividness of Movement Imagery Questionnaire-2 (VMIQ-2). We used motor evoked potential and F-wave measurements to evaluate the corticospinal and spinal motor neuron excitability at rest, pre-intervention, 0 min, and 15 min post-intervention. We also measured corticospinal excitability during MI of walking and the participant's ability to perform MI using a visual analog scale (VAS). There were no significant changes in corticospinal and spinal motor neuron excitability during and after the intervention using AO+MI (p>0.05). The intervention temporarily increased VAS scores, thus indicating clearer MI (p<0.05); however, it did not influence corticospinal excitability during MI of walking (p>0.05). Furthermore, there was no significant correlation between the VMIQ-2 and VAS scores and changes in corticospinal and spinal motor neuron excitability. Therefore, one short intervention using AO+MI increased MI ability in healthy individuals; however, it was insufficient to induce plastic changes at the cortical and spinal levels. Moreover, the effects of intervention using AO+MI were not associated with MI ability. Our findings provide information about intervention using AO+MI in healthy individuals and might be helpful in planning neurorehabilitation strategies.
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