Interested in building upon recent studies showing that imagery helps post-stroke patients relearn daily tasks, researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China investigated whether imagery could also help with generalizing skills on trained and untrained tasks in new environments in a small, randomized, controlled clinical trial. 

Thirty-five acute post-stroke patients were randomly assigned to an imagery training group (n=18) or conventional functional rehabilitation (n=17) group. The imagery intervention was 3-weeks of standardized practices and daily tasks using chunking-regulation-rehearsal strategies.

Outcome measurements were the performances on trained and untrained tasks in the training and novel environments.

The study found that the imagery patients showed significantly better performances on 4 of 5 trained tasks (P=0.001 to 0.026), as opposed to only one task in the conventional rehab patients (P=0.021). The imagery patients also outperformed their rehab counterpart on the 3 (of 5) (P=0.025 to 0.049) trained and 2 (of 3) untrained tasks (P=0.042 to 0.045) carried out in the novel environment.

The researchers conclude that the imagery intervention was useful for improving patients' ability on performing the tasks for which they did not previously train,  and in places different from their training environments.

Citation: Liu KP, Chan CC, Wong RS, Kwan IW, Yau CS, Li LS, Lee TM.  A randomized controlled trial of mental imagery augment generalization of learning in acute poststroke patientsStroke. 2009 Jun;40(6):2222-5. Epub 2009 Apr 23. [email protected]