Researchers from Meir General Hospital in Kfar Saba, Israel, investigated the efficacy of motor imagery practice for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

Of 23 patients with idiopathic PD, an experimental group of 12 was treated with both imagery and physical practice, and a control group received physical exercises alone.

Exercises for both groups were applied during 1-hour sessions held twice a week for 12 weeks. Comparable motor tasks provided to both groups included callisthenic exercises, functional tasks, and relaxation exercises.

Outcome measures included the time required to complete sequences of movements, the performance of balance tasks, impairment and functional scores on the Unified Parkinson''s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), and specific cognitive abilities (Stroop and clock drawing tests).

Following the intervention, the combined treatment group exhibited significantly faster performance of movement sequences than the control group. In addition, the experimental subjects demonstrated higher gains in the mental and motor subsets of the UPDRS and in the cognitive tests. Both groups improved on the activities of daily living scale.

The combination of motor imagery and real practice may be effective in the treatment of PD, especially for reducing bradykinesia. The implementation of this treatment regimen allows for the extension of practice time with negligible risk and low cost.

Citation: Tamir R, Dickstein R, Huberman M. Integration of motor imagery and physical practice in group treatment applied to subjects with Parkinson''s disease. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. 2007 Mar; 21 (1): pages 68-75. [email protected]