Ietswaart M, Johnston M, Dijkerman HC, Scott CL, Joice S, Hamilton SJC & MacWalter RS (2006) Recovery of hand function through mental practice: A study protocol. BMC Neurology, 6, Art. No.: 39. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2377-6-39
Background: The study aims to assess the therapeutic benefits of motor imagery training in stroke patients with persistent motor weakness. There is evidence to suggest that mental rehearsal of movement can produce effects normally attributed to practising the actual movements. Imagining hand movements could stimulate the redistribution of brain activity, which accompanies recovery of hand function, thus resulting in a reduced motor deficit.
Methods/Design: A multi-centre randomised controlled trial recruiting individuals between one and six months post-stroke (n = 135). Patients are assessed before and after a four-week evaluation period. In this trial, 45 patients daily mentally rehearse movements with their affected arm under close supervision. Their recovery is compared to 45 patients who perform closely supervised non-motor mental rehearsal, and 45 patients who are not engaged in a training program. Motor imagery training effectiveness is evaluated using outcome measures of motor function, psychological processes, and level of disability.
Discussion: The idea of enhancing motor recovery through the use of motor imagery rehabilitation techniques is important with potential implications for clinical practice. The techniques evaluated as part of this randomised controlled trial are informed by the current understanding in cognitive neuroscience and the trial is both of scientific and applied interest.
BMC Neurology: Volume 6