If you thought I was exaggerating about the recent spike in research on motor imagery for stroke, check out these 3 recent studies, and then click here for a whole other stash of them, already archived....


Researchers from the Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel, tested the feasibility of using a home-based motor imagery gait training program to improve walking performance of people suffering from chronic poststroke hemiparesis.

Seventeen community-dwelling volunteers with hemiparesis caused by a unilateral stroke that occurred at least 3 months before the study were recruited. They received 15 minutes of supervised imagery gait training in their homes 3 days a week for 6 weeks. The intervention addressed gait impairments of the affected lower limb and task-specific gait training.

Walking ability was evaluated by kinematics and functional scales twice before the intervention, 3 and 6 weeks after the intervention began, and at the 3-week follow-up.

Walking speed increased significantly by 40% after training, and the gains were largely maintained at the 3-week follow-up. The effect size of the intervention on walking speed was moderate (.64). There were significant increases in stride length, cadence, and single-support time of the affected lower limb, whereas double-support time was decreased. Improvements were also noted on the gait scale of the Tinetti Performance-Oriented Mobility Assessment as well as in functional gait. Sixty-five percent of the participants advanced 1 walking category in the Modified Functional Walking Categories Index.

The study concludes that these findings support incorporating home-based motor imagery exercises to improve walking skills for poststroke hemiparesis. Further study is warranted.

Citation: Dunsky A, Dickstein R, Marcovitz E, Levy S, Deutsch J. Home-based motor imagery training for gait rehabilitation of people with chronic poststroke hemiparesis. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 2008 Aug; 89 (8): pages 1580-8. [email protected]


Researchers in the Department of Neurology of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain activity in 12 healthy volunteers mentally imagining walking along a curved path, walking straight ahead, and standing upright.

The MRI’s revealed shifts in the putamen and caudate nucleus; differences in the parahippocampal and fusiform gyri between imagining walking along a curved path and walking straight ahead; deactivations in the superior and medial temporal gyri; and ipsiversive eye movements.

The study concludes that these findings complement earlier outcomes, suggesting that there is a very close neurophysiologic relationship between locomotion and its mental imagery.

Citation: Wagner J, Stephan T, Kalla R, Brückmann H, Strupp M, Brandt T, Jahn K. Mind the bend: cerebral activations associated with mental imagery of walking along a curved path. Exp Brain Res. 2008 Aug 12. [Epub ahead of print] [email protected]


Researchers from the University of California, Irvine used functional MRI to record brain activity during imagined, executed and observed right ankle movements in 10 healthy right-footed participants.

Task compliance was high and confirmed via behavioral assessment and electro-myographic measurements. Each task was also associated with its own profile of regional activation. Overall, regional activation showed substantial overlap across the three lower extremity motor tasks.

The findings suggest the utility of continued efforts to develop motor imagery for improving lower extremity function in a range of clinical settings.

Citation: Orr EL, Lacourse MG, Cohen MJ, Cramer SC. Cortical activation during executed, imagined, and observed foot movements. Neuroreport. 2008 April 16; 19 (6): pages 625-30.