Researchers: Visualization exercises help stroke victims

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Mentally practicing tasks as part of a therapy regimen significantly improves outcomes of chronic stroke patients, according to a new report in the journal Stroke.

"Mental practice increases motor-skill learning and performance in rehabilitative settings," said Dr. Stephen J. Page and research colleagues from the University of Cincinnati Academic Medical Center, Ohio. "The same neural and muscular structures are activated when movements are mentally practiced as during physical practice of the same skills."

Researchers tested arm rehabilitation in two test groups. One received traditional therapy that emphasized activities of daily living in 30-minute sessions twice a week over sex weeks. The other group added 30-minute mental practice sessions involving activities of daily living. The latter group notched remarkably better improvement and function in their arms.