Have you ever heard the term mental imagery? If you are a sports fan you likely have. Mental imagery is frequently discussed in the realm sports psychology. It is a familiar concept in athletics as it is customarily implemented with athletes and by athletes (Arya, Pandian, Verma, and Garg, 2011).
Mental imagery is a thought process. When engaging in mental imagery, the participant draws up sensory experiences through their thoughts. These experiences engage a five sense focusing on auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic sensations. A common mental imagery technique used with athletes and physical rehabilitation patients alike, is motor imagery. Motor imagery involves thinking about every minute part of a specific movement without actually moving. Simply put, the participant imagines himself engaging in the movement. Motor imagery has been referred to as a voluntary rehearsal of the movement with awareness of the environment in which the movement will take place in the future (Arya, Pandian, Verma, and Garg, 2011).
The theory of mental imagery is built on brain activation. Mental imagery of a movement will create activation in the brain that mirrors the brain activation that occurs during actual movement. Through the use of brain mapping, researchers have demonstrated this mirroring event. Implications of this conclusion are significant for recovering stroke patients and injured persons. However, mental imagery in and of itself is not sufficient to achieve recovery from these conditions. Alternatively, mental imagery is recommended as a component of an integrated rehabilitation program that involves an additional evidenced based motor rehabilitation method (Arya, Pandian, Verma, and Garg, 2011).
The evolution of motor imagery recently expanded in scope. This technique is reportedly a rehabilitation prospect for patients with neurological disorders. Recent studies found that such techniques assisted patients diagnosed with Parkinson ’s disease to compensate for some of their motor deficits. Researchers identified motor imagery as a tool to assist patients with preparation for future movement sequences by reducing attentional load during the actual movement (Arya, Pandian, Verma, and Garg, 2011).
Arya, K. N., Pandian, S., Verma, R., & Garg, R. (2011). Rehabilitation: Movement therapy induced neural reorganization and motor recovery in stroke: A review. Journal Of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 15528-537. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2011.01.023
Heremans, E., Feys, P., Nieuwboer, A., Vercruysse, S., Vandenberghe, W., Sharma, N., & Helsen, W. (2011). Motor imagery ability in patients with early- and mid-stage Parkinson disease. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 25(2), 168-177.