Virtual Reality-Guided Motor Imagery Increases Corticomotor Excitability in Healthy Volunteers and Stroke Patients

Hyungjun ImJeunghun KuHyun Jung KimYoun Joo Kang
Dept. of Biomedical Engineering (의용공학과)
Issue Date
Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine, Vol.40(3) : 420-431, 2016
Objective To investigate the effects of using motor imagery (MI) in combination with a virtual reality (VR) program on healthy volunteers and stroke patients. In addition, this study investigated whether task variability within the VR-guided MI programs would influence corticomotor excitability. Methods The present study included 15 stroke patients and 15 healthy right-handed volunteers who were presented with four different conditions in a random order: rest, MI alone, VR-guided MI, and VR-guided MI with task variability. The corticomotor excitability of each participant was assessed before, during, and after each condition by measuring changes in the various parameters of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) of the extensor carpi radials (ECR). Changes in intracortical inhibition (ICI) and intracortical facilitation (ICF) were calculated after each condition as percentages of inhibition (%INH) and facilitation (%FAC) at rest. Results In both groups, the increases in MEP amplitudes were greater during the two VR-guided MI conditions than during MI alone. Additionally, the reductions in ECR %INH in both groups were greater under the condition involving VR-guided MI with task variability than under that involving VR-guided MI with regular interval. Conclusion The corticomotor excitability elicited by MI using a VR avatar representation was greater than that elicited by MI with real body observations. Furthermore, the use of task variability in a VR program may enhance neural regeneration after stroke by reducing ICI. The present findings support the use of various VR programs as well as the concept of combining MI with VR programs for neurorehabilitation.
Imagery (psychotherapy)StrokeTranscranial magnetic stimulationUpper extremityVirtual reality exposure therapy
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