Mental practice is a new rehabilitation method that refers to the mental rehearsal of motor imagery content with the goal of improving motor performance.
In this study, 15 patients who suffered a first-ever subcortical stroke with neurological deficits affecting the right hand, but no significant cognitive impairment were recruited. 10 patients underwent mental practice combined with physical practice training, and 5 patients only underwent physical practice training.
The results showed that, after 4 weeks of mental practice combined with physical training, the Fugl-Meyer assessment score for the affected right hand was significantly increased than that after 4 weeks of practice training alone. Functional MRI showed enhanced activation in the left primary somatosensory cortex, attenuated activation intensity in the right primary motor cortex, and enhanced right cerebellar activation observed during the motor imagery task using the affected right hand after mental practice training. The changes in brain cortical activity were related to functional recovery of the hand.
Experimental findings indicate that cortical and cerebellar functional reorganization following mental practice contributed to the improvement of hand function.
Neural Regen Res. 2014 Aug 1;9(15):1474-84