Researchers from the Centre of Research and Innovation in Sport, at the University Claude Bernard and the University of Lyon in Villeurbanne, France, examined whether mental imagery (MI) training can increase muscle strength, especially when movements are under the control of large cortical areas in the primary motor cortex. (It has already been well established that it improves motor performance and motor learning.)
This pilot study experiment assessed whether MI can improve upper and lower limb strength, with complex, multi-joint exercises.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania examined the effects of a 6-wk intervention that used guided relaxation and exercise imagery (GREI) to increase self-reported leisure-time exercise behavior among older adults.
A total of 93 community-dwelling healthy older adults (age 70.38 ± 8.15 yr, 66 female) were randomly placed in either a placebo control group or an intervention group. The intervention group received instructions to listen to an audio compact disk (CD) containing a GREI program, and the placebo control group received an audio CD that contained 2 relaxation tracks and instructions to listen to music of their choice for 6 wk.
Researchers from the Astronaut Research and Training Center in Beijing, China looked at whether guided imagery can reduce the anxiety and tension that astronauts feel during centrifuge training (designed to improve their tolerance of hypergravity) and which can impede their responses. This small study measured the impact of guided imagery vs. music on changes in anxiety, heart rate and heart rate variability in 12 healthy young men before, during and after centrifuge training.
Change in the patterns of anxiety was different in the two groups over the three phases. Anxiety (measured by State Anxiety Inventory) in the GI group changed from 31.7 +/- 5.9 to 26.8 +/- 2.6 and 27.8 +/- 4.1, whereas for the music group this changed from 32.2 +/- 7.6 to 31.2 +/- 8.3 and 26.8 +/- 6.8.
This anecdote appeared amid our lively debate last week on using guided imagery downrange, and it’s a great reminder of how imagery gets used on a regular basis by prisoners of war. People who are trapped in conditions of sensory deprivation invariably turn to imagery - they just intuitively go there. Here is the posting:
“I recall reading an article where a soldier, while a prisoner of war, played golf in his mind. Each day he played on a different course he remembered. Not only did he survive the trauma of being imprisoned, his golf game was improved when he returned home to the States. I want our soldiers to be the best they can be - but most of all I want them to come back home and be able to lead productive lives.”
Researchers from the Centre de Recherche et d'Innovation sur le Sport at the Universite Claude Bernard-Lyon in Cedex, France, were interested in investigating whether imagery can improve stretching and flexibility the way it has been found to enhance learning and motor performance.
They compared flexibility scores in 21 synchronized swimmers before and after a 5-week mental practice program that included five stretching exercises in active and passive conditions.
Hello! I am a student physical therapist and am working at one of my clinical rotations right now. I have noticed several patients could benefit from guided imagery to help them relax. Do you have any short sessions, between 10-15 minutes? Patients will often have a hot or cold pack, etc for 10-15 minutes and I would love to try a guided imagery session at the same time, since we shut the lights off anyways to help promote relaxation. Thank you for your time.
Researchers from the Department of Nursing, Pochon CHA University in Kyonggi-Do, Korea, compared the impact of feeling state guided imagery (FSGI – imagery to generally improve mood) and end state guided imagery (ESGI – imagery to imagine successful performance) on stress levels and quality of performance in nursing students learning to give intramuscular (IM) injections.
The subjects were 40 female sophomores (21 for the ESGI, 19 for the FSGI). The instruments used were the Visual Analogue Scale for Stress and the Nursing Skill Performance Check-list on Intramuscular Injection, developed by the researchers. Guided imagery was provided through audiotapes for 8 minutes. A pretest was given before applying the guided imagery; the first posttest was taken after the intervention; and the second posttest was taken before the intramuscular injection. Evaluation of the performance of the intramuscular injection was done immediately afterward.
Imagery Rehearsal Found Critical in Motor Rehab for Stroke, Better than Physical Practice Alone
Researchers from the University of Lyon in Bron Cedex, France tested whether "mental rehearsal" (motor imagery) is equivalent to physical learning in restoring motor function in hemiplegic patients (paralyzed on one side), and examined what would be optimal proportions of real execution vs. rehearsal.
Subjects were asked to grasp an object and insert it into an adapted slot. One group (G0) practiced the task only by physical execution (240 trials); three groups imagined performing the task in different rates of trials (25%, G25; 50%, G50; 75%, G75), and physically executed movements for the remaining trials; a fourth, control group imagined a visual rotation task in 75% of the trials and then performed the same motor task as the other groups.
In Neurological Rehab, Imagining Movement Delivers the Goods
A Dutch literature review concludes that imagining movement creates the same flow of sensory information that leads to the reacquisition of motor skills.
In rehab, active exercising creates the flow of sensory information responsible for the learning or relearning of lost (or newly needed) motor skills. This review article addresses whether active physical exercise is always necessary for creating this sensory flow.
It points to numerous studies indicating that motor imagery can result in the same plastic changes in the motor system that actual physical practice provides. Motor imagery is the mental execution of a movement without any overt, corresponding movement or without any peripheral (muscle) activation.
Guided Motor Imagery Helps with Athletic Performance, Neurological Conditions
Investigators at the University of Haifa in Israel reviewed the literature to determine the positive effects of guided motor imagery practice on motor performance. There is abundant evidence that motor performance is improved in athletes, people who are healthy, and people with neurological conditions, such as stroke, spinal cord injury and Parkinson’s disease. This article discusses how to integrate motor imagery into a physical therapy practice and goes into particulars of visual and kinesthetic motor imagery, factors that modify motor imagery practice, the design of motor imagery protocols, and potential applications of motor imagery.
Citation: Dickstein R, Deutsch JE. Motor imagery in physical therapist practice. Physical Therapy. 2007 Jul; 87 (7): pages 942-53. Epub 2007 May 1 [email protected].