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Imagining Specific Motor Activities Enhances Stroke Rehab of Upper & Lower Limbs

30 Mar

Investigators from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, performed a systematic review of clinical studies on the efficacy of a technique in stroke rehabilitation called “mental practice” (also called guided imagery or mental rehearsal).

Mental Practice is defined by the authors as imagining the body performing a motor action or skill, in order to learn or perfect it.  Functional imaging shows that mental practice does, in fact, produce cortical activation patterns similar to those of actual movement.

A systematic search of all Mental Practice clinical studies with stroke patients, published in the main scientific databases between December 2011 and October 2012, yielded 23 clinical trials.

The subsequent analysis concludes that Mental Practice is effective when used in conjunction with conventional physical therapy for functional rehabilitation of both upper and lower limbs, as well as for the recovery of daily activities and skills. 

The researchers suggest that there be further studies that can determine optimal treatment protocols and profiles of patients most and least likely to benefit. 

Citation: García Carrasco D, Aboitiz Cantalapiedra J. Effectiveness of motor imagery or mental practice in functional recovery after stroke: a systematic review. Neurologia. 2016 Jan-Feb;31 (1):43-52.

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award