Objective: To examine the neural correlates of motor imagery performed in conjunction with movement of the paretic arm after stroke.
Design: Cross-sectional, cohort study.
Subjects: Seven individuals in the chronic phase of stroke recovery (median (range): age: 58 years (37-73); time post-stroke: 9 months (4-42); upper extremity Fugl-Meyer motor score: 48 (36-64)).
Methods: Participants actively moved the paretic/right arm under two conditions while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. In the motor condition, pronation/supination movements were made in response to a visual cue. In the motor + imagery condition, the same movements were performed in response to a visual cue but the participants were instructed to imagine opening and closing a doorknob during performance of the movement.
Results: For the motor condition, the anticipated motor network was activated and included left sensorimotor cortex and right cerebellum. For performance of the same movements during the motor + imagery condition, additional brain regions were significantly engaged including the left inferior parietal lobule and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Conclusions: The addition of motor imagery to movement may provide a practical, accessible way to modulate activity in both the planning and execution components of the motor network after stroke.