Examining motor imagery-related brain function in health and after stroke to leverage its prescription

Many stroke survivors (~85 percent) in Canada experience long-term impairments in arm and hand function. To aid recovery, motor imagery (the mental rehearsal of movement) shows promise as an adjunct therapy. Yet, its effectiveness is varied. We think this is due to a lack of basic knowledge about how motor imagery works. Motor imagery is thought to work similarly to physical therapy, whereby repetitive physical practice drives changes in brain function necessary for learning and recovery. However, we do not know a lot about how motor imagery drives changes in brain function. Using a blended approach not yet taken, we will examine changes in both brain function and behaviour driven by motor imagery. Importantly, we will examine how changes in brain function are altered and can be optimized after stroke, to improve its effectiveness. Findings will provide new information about how motor imagery should be applied to maximize learning and recovery, directly informing its use and prescription in stroke rehabilitation. Overall, this research represents a critical step in improving interventions for stroke recovery, leading to improved daily function and better quality of life for Canadians living with stroke.