Methods: Seven electronic databases (Cochrane, EBSCO, Embase, Eric, PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science) were searched up to 16 September 2018 to select Randomized Controlled Trials focused on adults and children with brain damage that included AOT training on upper and/or lower limb carried out for at least 1 week. Identification of studies and data extraction was conducted with two reviewers working independently. Oxford Centre for Evidence-based Medicine (March2009) – Levels of Evidence and Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale were used to grade studies. The data collected from the articles were analysed using software R, version 3.4.3. Hedge’s g values were calculated and effect size estimates were pooled across studies. Separate meta-analyses were carried out for each ICF domain (i.e. body function and activity) for upper and lower limb.
Results: Out of the 210 records identified after removing duplicates, 22 were selected for systematic review and 19 were included in the meta-analysis. Thirteen studies included in the meta-analysis focused on upper limb rehabilitation (4 in children and 9 in adults) and 6 on lower limb rehabilitation (only studies in adults). A total of 626 patients were included in the meta-analysis. An overall statistically significant effect size was found for upper limb body function (0.44, 95% CI: [0.24, 0.64], p<0.001) and upper limb activity domain (0.47, 95% CI: [0.30, 0.64], p<0.001). For lower limb, only the activity domain was analysed, revealing a statistically significant overall effect size (0.56, 95% CI: [0.28, 0.84], p<0.001).
Conclusions: Action Observation Training (AOT) is an innovative rehabilitation tool for individuals with brain damage, which shows promising results in improving the activity domain for upper and lower limbs, and also the body function domain for the upper limb. However, the examined studies lack uniformity and further well-designed, larger controlled trials are necessary to determine the most suitable type of AOT particularly in children