Task Complexity and Image Clarity Facilitate Motor and Visuo-Motor Activities in Mirror Therapy in Post-stroke Patients

Umar Muhammad Bello, Che Hin Chan (Corresponding Author), Stanley John Winser

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Mirror therapy is effective in the recovery of upper-limb function among post-stroke patients. An important component of mirror therapy is imagining finger movements. This study aimed to determine the influence of finger movement complexity and mirror image clarity on facilitating motor and visuo-motor activities in post-stroke patients. Methods: Fifteen post-stroke patients and 18 right-handed healthy participants performed simple or complex finger tapping while viewing mirror images of these movements at varying levels of clarity. The physical setup was identical to typical mirror therapy. Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) was used to capture the brain activities elicited in the bilateral primary motor cortices (M1) and the precuneus using a block experimental design. Results: In both study groups, the “complex finger-tapping task with blurred mirror image” condition resulted in lower intensity (p < 0.01) and authenticity (p < 0.01) of the kinesthetic mirror illusion, and higher levels of perceived effort in generating the illusion (p < 0.01), relative to the “simple finger-tapping with clear mirror image” condition. Greater changes in the oxygenated hemoglobin (HbO) concentration were recorded at the ipsilesional and ipsilateral M1 in the “complex finger-tapping task with blurred mirror image” condition relative to that recorded in the “simple finger-tapping task with clear mirror image” condition (p = 0.03). These HbO concentration changes were not significant in the precuneus. Post-stroke patients showed greater changes than their healthy counterparts at the ipsilesional M1 (F = 5.08; p = 0.03; partial eta squared = 0.14) and the precuneus (F = 7.71; p < 0.01; partial eta squared = 0.20). Conclusion: The complexity and image clarity of the finger movements increased the neural activities in the ipsilesional motor cortex in the post-stroke patients. These findings suggest plausible roles for top-down attention and working memory in the treatment effects of mirror therapy. Future research can aim to corroborate these findings by using a longitudinal design to examine the use of mirror therapy to promote upper limb motor recovery in post-stroke patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number722846
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2021


  • image clarity
  • mirror therapy
  • movement complexity
  • post-stroke
  • precuneus
  • primary motor cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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