Motor imagery during movement activates the brain more than movement alone after stroke: a pilot study

J Rehabil Med. 2014 Oct;46(9):843-8. doi: 10.2340/16501977-1844.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation
  • Upper Extremity / physiopathology*