Motor Imagery Training After Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

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Abstract

Background and Purpose:

A number of studies have suggested that imagery training (motor imagery [MI]) has value for improving motor function in persons with neurologic conditions. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the available literature related to efficacy of MI in the recovery of individuals after stroke.

Methods:

We searched the following databases: PubMed, Web of Knowledge, Scopus, Cochrane, and PEDro. Two reviewers independently selected clinical trials that investigated the effect of MI on outcomes commonly investigated in studies of stroke recovery. Quality and risk of bias of each study were assessed.

Results:

Of the 1156 articles found, 32 articles were included. There was a high heterogeneity of protocols among studies. Most studies showed benefits of MI, albeit with a large proportion of low-quality studies. The meta-analysis of all studies, regardless of quality, revealed significant differences on overall analysis for outcomes related to balance, lower limb/gait, and upper limb. However, when only high-quality studies were included, no significant difference was found. On subgroup analyses, MI was associated with balance gains on the Functional Reach Test and improved performance on the Timed Up and Go, gait speed, Action Research Arm Test, and the Fugl-Meyer Upper Limb subscale.

Discussion and Conclusions:

Our review reported a high heterogeneity in methodological quality of the studies and conflicting results. More high-quality studies and greater standardization of interventions are needed to determine the value of MI for persons with stroke.

Discussion and Conclusions:

Video Abstract available for more insights from the authors (see Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1, http://links.lww.com/JNPT/A188).

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