Task-specific training: evidence for and translation to clinical practice

Occup Ther Int. 2009;16(3-4):175-89. doi: 10.1002/oti.275.


There is mounting evidence of the value of task-specific training as a neuromotor intervention in neurological rehabilitation. The evidence is founded in the psychology of motor skill learning and in the neuroscience of experience-dependent and learning-dependent neural plastic changes in the brain in animals and humans. Further, there is growing empirical evidence for the effectiveness of task-specific training in rehabilitation and for neural plastic changes following task-oriented training. In this paper, we position the evidence for task-specific training in the context of rehabilitation; review its relevance for occupation-based neurological rehabilitation, particularly in relation to upper limb function and everyday activities; and recommend evidence-driven strategies for its application. We recommend that task-specific training be routinely applied by occupational therapists as a component of their neuromotor interventions, particularly in management related to post-stroke upper limb recovery. Specifically, we propose five implementation strategies based on review of the evidence. These are: task-specific training should be relevant to the patient/client and to the context; be randomly assigned; be repetitive and involve massed practice; aim towards reconstruction of the whole task; and be reinforced with positive and timely feedback.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Occupational Therapy / methods*
  • Quality of Life
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Upper Extremity*