Motor imagery ability of patients with lower-limb amputation: exploring the course of rehabilitation effects

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2019 Oct;55(5):634-645. doi: 10.23736/S1973-9087.17.04776-1. Epub 2017 Nov 16.


Background: Amputation of a lower-limb results in a severe decrease of functional mobility that deeply alters independent living. Motor imagery (MI) refers to the mental representation of an action without engaging its actual execution. The repetitive use of MI has been shown to contribute to promote motor recovery and phantom-limb pain alleviation.

Aim: Given the importance of invoking accurate images to benefit from MI practice, and considering the link between motor capacities and MI, the present study investigated the effect of a rehabilitation program on MI ability in patients with lower-limb amputation.

Design: Observational and longitudinal study.

Setting: Patients recruited from the Amputation program at the Institut de Réadaptation en Déficience Physique de Québec (IRDPQ), in Quebec City, Canada.

Population: Patients with trans-tibial or transfemoral amputation, following a rehabilitation program as outpatients.

Methods: MI ability of the patients was measured at three different time points along the course of physical therapy.

Results: The data revealed a positive effect of the rehabilitation program on MI accuracy of locomotor tasks, and greater MI vividness and accuracy for single-joint movements that patients were still able to physically perform.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that MI abilities and actual motor performance are mirrored in a congruent fashion.

Clinical rehabilitation impact: Therapists should consider this critical aspect when including MI practice in rehabilitation programs among patients with lower-limb amputation.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amputees / psychology*
  • Amputees / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology*
  • Lower Extremity / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function