A new study at Georgia State University has revealed that mental practice and physical therapy are effective treatments for people recovering from a stroke. According to the researchers, who examined how the brains of stroke patients change after treatment, mental practice and physical therapy are interventions used to improve impaired motor movement, coordination and balance following stroke.
Mental practice, also known as motor imagery, is the mental rehearsal of a motor action without an overt action and physical therapy consists of repetitive, task-oriented training of the impaired extremity.
Researcher Andrew Butler said that when people have a stroke, there's damage to brain cells and it takes a long time for neurons to grow back, if at all. You can use certain treatments to make the brain adapt or compensate in order to recruit new neurons and make you move again.
The research team found the causal flow of information between several brain regions, how one area causes an influence on the other, was reduced significantly for stroke survivors. The following brain connections were significantly reduced: LM1 and SMA, RPMC and SMA, RPMC and LM1, SMA and RM1, and SMA and LPMC. This flow of information did not increase significantly after mental practice alone, but it increased significantly when mental practice and physical therapy were combined.
In addition, sensation and motor function scores were significantly higher when stroke survivors underwent the combined mental practice and physical therapy.
The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.