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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 23:20 GMT 00:20 UK
Mind games boost stroke rehab
A stroke can lead to paralysis in some parts of the body
Playing tricks on the minds of people who have had strokes can help them to overcome paralysis, says a study.

Doctors in the United States say they have used imagination and mirrors to help patients trick their brain into thinking they can move arms and legs.

As part of the treatment, patients are told to imagine they can move limbs that are actually paralysed.

They then watch themselves move their unaffected limbs in a mirror and tell themselves they are moving their paralysed leg or arm.

Dr Jennifer Stevens and colleagues at Northwestern University said the technique has helped patients to recover more quickly and regain control of arms and legs that have been paralysed following a stroke.

Therapy sessions

As part of the treatment, patients were offered three one hour therapy sessions every week for four weeks.

In the first session, they watched a hand moving on a computer screen. They then imagined that their paralysed hand could do the exact same movement.

Actions generated using motor-imagery adhere to the same movement rules and constraints that physical movements follow
Dr Jennifer Stevens
In the second session, they moved their unaffected arm around and watched it in a mirror.

The mirror was positioned in such a way that it looked like the patient was moving its paralysed arm. They were also told to imagine that they were moving that arm.

In the third session, the patient tried to move the paralysed arm or hand.

The doctors found that the simulated and imagined movement of the previous sessions had an effect.

While the patients still had problems moving their limbs, there had been improvements.

The doctors believe that imagining that otherwise paralysed limbs can move helps the brain to recover after a stroke and regain control of arms and legs.

"Actions generated using motor-imagery adhere to the same movement rules and constraints that physical movements follow and the neural network involved in motor imagery and motor execution overlap in areas of the brain concerned with movement," said Dr Stevens.

The study is published in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, a study by scientists at the University of Michigan has found that patients who are able to forgive recover more quickly from spinal injuries.

In this instance, patients who were more forgiving of themselves and of others did better than those who less able to forgive.

The findings were presented at a Conference on Forgiveness in Atlanta, Georgia.

Many strokes could be prevented
02 Jul 03  |  Health

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