Role of kinaesthetic motor imagery in mirror-induced visual illusion as intervention in post-stroke rehabilitation

Umar M. Bello (Corresponding Author), Stanley J. Winser, Chetwyn C.H. Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Mirror-induced visual illusion obtained through mirror therapy is widely used to facilitate motor recovery after stroke. Activation of primary motor cortex (M1) ipsilateral to the moving limb has been reported during mirror-induced visual illusion. However, the mechanism through which the mirror illusion elicits motor execution processes without movements observed in the mirrored limb remains unclear. This study aims to review evidence based on brain imaging studies for testing the hypothesis that neural processes associated with kinaesthetic motor imagery are attributed to ipsilateral M1 activation. Four electronic databases were searched. Studies on functional brain imaging, investigating the instant effects of mirror-induced visual illusion among stroke survivors and healthy participants were included. Thirty-five studies engaging 78 stroke survivors and 396 healthy participants were reviewed. Results of functional brain scans (n = 20) indicated that half of the studies (n = 10, 50%) reported significant changes in the activation of ipsilateral M1, which mediates motor preparation and execution. Other common neural substrates included primary somatosensory cortex (45%, kinaesthesia), precuneus (40%, image generation and self-processing operations) and cerebellum (20%, motor control). Similar patterns of ipsilateral M1 activations were observed in the two groups. These neural substrates mediated the generation, maintenance, and manipulation of motor-related images, which were the key processes in kinaesthetic motor imagery. Relationships in terms of shared neural substrates and mental processes between mirror-induced visual illusion and kinaesthetic motor imagery generate new evidence on the role of the latter in mirror therapy. Future studies should investigate the imagery processes in illusion training for post-stroke patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-674
Number of pages16
JournalReviews in the Neurosciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2020


  • mental processes
  • mirror therapy
  • neural substrates
  • precuneus
  • primary motor cortex
  • stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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