• 14/04/2010
  • 06:31 am
Page SJ, Szaflarski JP, Eliassen JC, Pan H, Cramer SC. (2009) Cortical plasticity following motor skill learning during mental practice in stroke. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 23 (4): 382-388.



This interesting piece of research sets out to show that mental practice, which involves a cognitive rehearsal of physical movements, is a non-invasive, inexpensive method of enabling repetitive, task specific practice. Physical practice is believed to create a motor plan or schema that mental practice then augments or emboldens. Ten chronic stroke subjects participated in a 10 week intervention of physical and mental practice and their behaviour outcomes were blindly measured using valid and reliable outcome measures before and after the intervention period. Functional MRI (fMRI) scanning confirmed cortical learning and correlated with the improved ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), demonstrating the process of neuroplasticity.

Apart from some incomprehensible information which is provided about the processing of the fMRI data, and an unanswered question about why the fMRI scanning did not include the cerebellum, this is a very good paper. It is well written and provides evidence in favour of mental practice as a very practical way of providing repetitive task specific practice for recovery of ADLs following stroke. Mental practice should become part of ‘best practice’ rehabilitation, particularly in respect of exercise programmes and the 24 hour approach to recovery.