Operationalisation of the learned non-use phenomenon - A Delphi study
The discrepancy between residual functional capacity and reduced use of the contralesional hand, frequently observed after a brain lesion, has been termed Learned Non-Use (LNU) and is thought to depend on the interaction of neuronal mechanisms during recovery and learning-dependent mechanisms such as negative reinforcement. Despite the generally accepted existence of the LNU phenomenon among clinicians and researchers, no unequivocal and transdisciplinary definition exists to date. Furthermore,
... although therapeutic approaches are implemented in clinical practice to explicitly target LNU, no standardized diagnostic routine is described in the current literature. Based on a structured group communication following the Delphi method among clinical and scientific experts in the field of LNU, knowledge from both, the work with patient populations and with animal models, was synthesized and integrated to reach consensus regarding a transdisciplinary definition of the LNU phenomenon. Furthermore, the mode and strategy of the diagnostic process, as well as the sources of information and outcome parameters relevant for the clinical decision making, were described with a wide range showing the current lack of a consistent universal diagnostic approach. Building on these results, the need for the development of a structured diagnostic procedure and its implementation into clinical practice is emphasized. Moreover, it exists a striking gap between the prevailing hypotheses regarding the mechanisms underlying the LNU phenomenon and the actual evidence. Therefore, basic research is needed to bridge between bedside and bench and eventually improve clinical decision making and further development of interventional strategies beyond the field of stroke rehabilitation.