Mental Imagery

Mental imagery(mental practice, guided imagery) is just what it sounds like.  You imagine a movement without physically doing it.  Can this help?  Well, this study says it can.  This study says that if you spend time practicing a movement mentally, you get changes in the brain.  This study says it doesn’t help.  This study says it’s inconclusive whether mental imagery helps, that more research is needed.  My opinion?  Certainly can’t hurt!  And yes, I think it helps.  They told us to have patients do this in school.  Before physical attempts of a movement, they taught us to have the patient mentally practice.  I kind of do it when I’m on the treadmill.  Sometimes on the treadmill, my right leg doesn’t do exactly what I want it to do so I imagine it being physically lifted forward.  This isn’t really mental imagery because I’m simultaneously performing the action, but it helps a lot.  Whether that’s actually helping to change anything in the brain who knows but it helps during performance of the actual movement.

Categories: Brain stuff, Rehab, Stroke stuff

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4 replies

  1. Yeah, I got depressed when I saw the negative study but then looked at it more carefully. Only four weeks long. I would say its an incomplete experiment, the response should have been to run it again for longer time periods.

  2. I was involved in a lot of studies that looked at mental practice and stroke. It’s one of those options that has no downside. It can be done by the survivor, with no real intervention. The idea is to mentally practice whatever you’re physically practicing. But not at the same time. You would do the task, and then later on mentally practice the task. The mental practice is done when you’re relaxed. In fact, in our protocols we have five minutes of deep relaxation prior to starting mental practice. If you’re looking for a definitive bottom line I would look here:
    Mental Practice for Treating Upper Extremity Deficits in Individuals With Hemiparesis After Stroke

    It’s the Journal of Stroke. It’s the only true review (study of studies). Here are the conclusions:

    ~there is limited to suggest that mental practice appears to be beneficial (Sounds clunky right? Welcome to research!)
    ~although the evidence is limited, clinicians may consider the use of mental practice…

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