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Int J Rehabil Res. 2014 Sep;37(3):277-80. doi: 10.1097/MRR.0000000000000058.

Exploring the utility of analogies in motor learning after stroke: a feasibility study.

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aDepartment of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health bResearch center for autonomy and participation of people with a chronic illness, Faculty of Health cResearch Centre Technology in Care, Faculty of Health, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, Heerlen dDepartment of Brain Injury, Adelante Rehabilitation Centre, Hoensbroek eDepartment of Health Services Research, School CAPHRI, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands fDepartment of Sport and Health Sciences gMedical School, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.


Individuals who have experienced a stroke need to (re)learn motor skills. Analogy learning has been shown to facilitate motor learning in sports and may also be an attractive alternative to traditional approaches in therapy. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility and utility of analogies to improve the walking performance in long-term stroke survivors. Three men aged 76, 87 and 70 years who were 6, 1 and 3 years poststroke, respectively, presented with different walking deficits. An analogy, targeted at improving the walking performance was designed with the help of each participant. During a 3-week intervention period, the analogy was practiced once weekly under supervision and daily at home. To assess feasibility, a structured interview was conducted at the end of the intervention period. To assess utility, walking performance was assessed using the 10-Metre Walking Test. All three participants were supportive of the feasibility and benefits of analogy learning. Two of the participants had a meaningful improvement on the 10-Metre Walking Test (0.1 and 0.3 m/s). The third participant did not improve most likely because of medication issues during the week of the retest. Developing analogies in therapy is a creative and challenging process, as analogies must not only guide the correct movement pattern, but also be meaningful to the individual. However, as participants were supportive of the use of analogies, and positive trends were seen in walking speed it seems worthwhile to pursue the use of analogies in future research.

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