Author(s): Malouin F, Richards CL
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Abstract Over the past 2 decades, much work has been carried out on the use of mental practice through motor imagery for optimizing the retraining of motor function in people with physical disabilities. Although much of the clinical work with mental practice has focused on the retraining of upper-extremity tasks, this article reviews the evidence supporting the potential of motor imagery for retraining gait and tasks involving coordinated lower-limb and body movements. First, motor imagery and mental practice are defined, and evidence from physiological and behavioral studies in healthy individuals supporting the capacity to imagine walking activities through motor imagery is examined. Then the effects of stroke, spinal cord injury, lower-limb amputation, and immobilization on motor imagery ability are discussed. Evidence of brain reorganization in healthy individuals following motor imagery training of dancing and of a foot movement sequence is reviewed, and the effects of mental practice on gait and other tasks involving coordinated lower-limb and body movements in people with stroke and in people with Parkinson disease are examined. Lastly, questions pertaining to clinical assessment of motor imagery ability and training strategies are discussed.
This article was published in Phys Ther
and referenced in Journal of Spine