Combination of Mental Practice and Physical Therapy Accelerates Stroke Recovery
Stroke occurs when poor blood supply to a part of the brain results in cell death. Stroke recovery is difficult and may sometimes be a lifelong process. Researchers have now revealed that a combination of mental practice and physical therapy provides an effective treatment for people recovering from a stroke. Mental practice, also known as motor imagery, involves the mental rehearsal of a motor action without an overt action; and physical therapy consists of repetitive, task-oriented training of the impaired extremity.
Researchers studied 17 young, healthy controls and 13 aged stroke survivors. These study subjects received the treatment within 14 to 51 days of their stroke and participated in 60 total hours of rehabilitation. They were placed in two different groups for rehabilitation- mental practice only or both mental practice and physical therapy. The findings suggested that a combination of mental practice and physical therapy can be an effective means of treatment for stroke survivors to recover or regain the strength of motor behaviors.
Researchers Andrew Butler from the Georgia State University said, "When people have a stroke, there is 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. One of these treatments is really intense physical therapy, but some people cannot move at all. We found in our data that if they just think about moving, it keeps the neurons active right around the area that died in the brain. We used mental practice as a primer for physical training. As people improve and move along in their rehabilitation, they can progress from mental practice to physical practice and this can result in behavioral change, meaning they could move their arms better."
Source:The findings are published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.