The efficacy of combined physical and mental practice in the learning of a foot-sequence task after stroke: a case report.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Neurorehabil Neural Repair, Volume 18, Issue 2, p.106-11 (2004)


Adult, Foot, Humans, Imagery (Psychotherapy), Male, Motor Activity, Paresis, Practice (Psychology), Stroke, Task Performance and Analysis, Treatment Outcome


<p><b>OBJECTIVE: </b>To investigate the effect of mental practice on the learning of a sequential task for the lower limb in a patient with a hemiparesis resulting from a stroke.</p><p><b>DESIGN: </b>A single-case study.</p><p><b>SETTING: </b>Research laboratory of a university-affiliated rehabilitation center.</p><p><b>PATIENT: </b>A right-handed 38-year-old man who had suffered a left hemorrhagic subcortical stroke 4 months prior.</p><p><b>INTERVENTION: </b>The patient practiced a serial response time task with the lower limb in 3 distinct training phases over a period of 5 weeks: 2 weeks of physical practice, 1 week of combined physical and mental practice, and then 2 weeks of mental practice alone.</p><p><b>MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: </b>Performance on the task measured through errors and response times. Imagery abilities measured through questionnaires.</p><p><b>RESULTS: </b>The patient's average response time improved significantly during the 1st 5 days of physical practice (26%) but then failed to show further improvement during the following week of physical practice. The combination of mental and physical practice during the 3rd week yielded additional improvement (10.3%), whereas the following 2 weeks of mental practice resulted in a marginal increase in performance (2.2%).</p><p><b>CONCLUSION: </b>The findings show that mental practice, when combined with physical practice, can improve the performance of a sequential motor skill in people who had a stroke, and suggest that mental practice could play a role in the retention of newly acquired abilities.</p>

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