View Full Version : In Neurological Rehab, Imagining Movement Delivers the Goods

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02-22-2011, 12:08 PM
For those who are sidelined with injuries and eager to get back to practice;


"A Dutch literature review concludes that imagining movement creates the same flow of sensory information that leads to the reacquisition of motor skills.

In rehab, active exercising creates the flow of sensory information responsible for the learning or relearning of lost (or newly needed) motor skills. This review article addresses whether active physical exercise is always necessary for creating this sensory flow.

It points to numerous studies indicating that motor imagery can result in the same plastic changes in the motor system that actual physical practice provides. Motor imagery is the mental execution of a movement without any overt, corresponding movement or without any peripheral (muscle) activation.

Brain scans show that motor imagery leads to the activation of the same brain areas as actual movement. In addition, it suggests that it is possible that even observation of a movement performed by another can play a similar role in learning.

This review concludes that the use of motor imagery in neurological rehabilitation can be defended on theoretical grounds and on the basis of the results of a handful of experimental studies."

Stay on the sidelines until after your injuries are healed. Observe class, watch Aikido videos and imagine yourself doing what you are watching. This will help your already acquired skills from diminishing.

Don't be disappointment when you return to practice and you are not as great as you imagined you were. :)


Janet Rosen
02-22-2011, 12:34 PM
Yep - not the first study to suggest this; thanks for posting it.

Keith Larman
02-22-2011, 01:37 PM
Yeah, I was going to say I was reading about that back in the 70's I think. Lots of evidence to support the idea. I use it all the time myself -- visualizing ideal movement.

Janet Rosen
02-22-2011, 02:06 PM
It got me through the period of being off the mat during my knee injury/rehab - sitting there watching training and twitching/moving in my chair.

02-22-2011, 02:25 PM
So, for the purposes of aikido, what's the best way to do this? From memory, or watching a vid, or..?

Keith Larman
02-22-2011, 02:48 PM
I do it quite often when I have too much pain from either my back or the myopathy. I don't find videos all that helpful myself. I'll enjoy watching practice then I'll sort of turn my mind inward and "feel" myself doing the movement. Sort of like visualization, but an internally active one. And since I work alone all day, it is not unusual for me to periodically get up and "work out" a technique in my head. I may move a little, doing some of the movements. But it is more a mental thing with a feeling of being aware of your body and what would be moving.

So for instance take something simple like katatedori nikyo. You could start by standing, moving off the line, trapping the hand, and moving through the entire movement slowly with your eyes closed but imagining that there is someone holding on. You try to "feel" the grip, the connection and the movement. You focus on feeling your entire body, how it relates, how it connects, and how the movement flows. After a few time just stand there, close your eyes, and do it again but without actually moving much. It's the "visualization" (although visualization is really not a good word here -- it is a vastly more integrated feeling trying to get all your sensory apparatus involved) that causes the muscles to move slightly, to "train" your body in the movement and feeling.

I was very interested in it as a kid as I was classically trained in piano. I would often sit at my desk at school when bored "playing" piano. I could close my eyes and literally "hear" the notes as I played. I got good enough where I could "hear" mistakes when the fingers "felt" wrong.

Complex movements can be trained in such ways and this has been an area of some study for at least 40 -50 years. Probably more. Various modern imaging methodologies have shown how many of the same areas in the brain light up when the person does it "inside themselves" without moving as when they are doing it for real. So it can be a productive addition to training.

But all this goes to reading I used to do as a matter of course years ago. I've been away from that world for a while...