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Stroke. 2007 Apr;38(4):1293-7. Epub 2007 Mar 1.

Mental practice in chronic stroke: results of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

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  • 1Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0530.



Mental practice (MP) of a particular motor skill has repeatedly been shown to activate the same musculature and neural areas as physical practice of the skill. Pilot study results suggest that a rehabilitation program incorporating MP of valued motor skills in chronic stroke patients provides sufficient repetitive practice to increase affected arm use and function. This Phase 2 study compared efficacy of a rehabilitation program incorporating MP of specific arm movements to a placebo condition using randomized controlled methods and an appropriate sample size. Method- Thirty-two chronic stroke patients (mean=3.6 years) with moderate motor deficits received 30-minute therapy sessions occurring 2 days/week for 6 weeks, and emphasizing activities of daily living. Subjects randomly assigned to the experimental condition also received 30-minute MP sessions provided directly after therapy requiring daily MP of the activities of daily living; subjects assigned to the control group received the same amount of therapist interaction as the experimental group, and a sham intervention directly after therapy, consisting of relaxation. Outcomes were evaluated by a blinded rater using the Action Research Arm test and the upper extremity section of the Fugl-Meyer Assessment.


No pre-existing group differences were found on any demographic variable or movement scale. Subjects receiving MP showed significant reductions in affected arm impairment and significant increases in daily arm function (both at the P<0.0001 level). Only patients in the group receiving MP exhibited new ability to perform valued activities.


The results support the efficacy of programs incorporating mental practice for rehabilitating affected arm motor function in patients with chronic stroke. These changes are clinically significant.

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