Researchers at the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, find in a pilot study with 20 elderly subjects that 6 weeks of imagery training improves postural stability.
Researchers at the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, studied the effectiveness of imagery on improving static balance in the elderly. This study evaluated the efficiency of a guided imagery protocol, aimed at improving static balance by reducing postural oscillations and attentional demands in 20 subjects, aged 65-90 years old.
Subjects were divided into 2 groups - 12 in the intervention group and 8 in the control group. The imagery group underwent daily training for a period of 6 weeks. Measurements were taken of postural oscillations – front to back and side to side - as well as reaction times during a double-task assignment. In addition, they were assessed by the Berg Balance Scale, Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale, and VMIQ questionnaire, both pre- and post intervention.
The study found that attentional demands and postural oscillations (front to back) decreased significantly in the imagery group, as compared with those of the control group. Additionally, those in the imagery group became significantly better in their ability to generate clear vivid mental images, as indicated by the VMIQ questionnaire, whereas no significant difference was observed for the Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale or Berg Scale.
The researchers conclude that these initial results support the idea, generated from psychoneuromuscular and motor coding theories, that imagery is an efficacious and trainable skill to improve postural stability in the elderly.
Hamel MF, Lajoie Y. Mental imagery. Effects on static balance and attentional demands of the elderly. Aging in Clinical and Experimental Research. 2005 Jun;17 (3): pp. 223-8.