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Mental imagery for promoting relearning for people after stroke: a randomized controlled trial.

08 Sep

Researchers at the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at Hong Kong Polytechnic University studied the efficacy of mental imagery at promoting relearning for people after a stroke.

This randomized, controlled trial in an inpatient rehabilitation stroke unit tested 46 inpatients, 60 years of age or older, who had suffered a cerebral infarction (stroke). Subjects were randomized to receive 15 sessions, one hour per day for 3 weeks, of either the mental imagery program or conventional training for relearning daily living tasks. Testing was then done on performance of 15 trained and 5 untrained tasks, including household, cooking, and shopping tasks; and the Fugl-Meyer Assessment and Color Trails Test (CTT).

The study found that patients engaged in the mental imagery-based intervention showed better relearning of both trained and untrained tasks when compared with the control group (trained tasks: P<.005; untrained tasks: P<.001). They also demonstrated a greater ability to retain the trained tasks after 1 month and better transfer the skills relearned to other untrained tasks (P<.001).

The researchers conclude that mental imagery can be used as a training strategy to promote the relearning of daily tasks for people after an acute stroke. They found the imagery process likely to improve the planning and execution of both trained and untrained (novel) tasks, and that it appears to help patients to retain and generalize the skills and tasks learned in the rehabilitation program.

Citation: Liu KP, Chan CC, Lee TM, Hui-Chan CW. Mental imagery for promoting relearning for people after stroke: a randomized controlled trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2004 Sep; 85 (9): pages 1403-8
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