Immediate Effect of Mental Practice on Performance of a Neurodynamic Skill in Physiotherapy Students: A Randomized Control Trial
Background: Mental Practice (MP), "the cognitive rehearsal of a task in the absence of overt physical movement," has been used successfully in teaching and rehearsing complex psychomotor tasks in several domains, including sports; music; and recently, in surgical skills acquisition. This study investigates the implementation of MP on performance of a neurodynamic skill in third year undergraduate Physiotherapy students.
Method: It was a randomized control trial (single-blind) conducted in a Physiotherapy institute. A convenient sample of 40 III year undergraduate students who were novice for the topic were recruited. Some important preliminary steps involved development and validation of the tools used in the study viz. an audio script to guide mental imagery practice and an OSPE checklist to assess the outcome. The OSPE checklist was procedural specific for ULNT-1 and included stations for cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains. A neurodynamic skill (ULNT-1 Median nerve) was taught to all the students (n = 38, 2 drop outs) by a teacher as a didactic lecture followed by physical practice which was supervised and guided by the same teacher. After randomization, the intervention group (n=19) received MP guided by a structured audio script as a single session for 20 minutes delivered to all the participants together in a group. The control group participants (n=19) intended to serve as a basis of comparison and received no intervention. Pre- and post-intervention assessment was done by a set of examiners who were blinded to the intervention. Comparative analysis was done within the group using Wilcoxon sign rank test and between the groups using unpaired t test.
Results: MP group showed significant improvement in cognitive, psychomotor, affective domain and total score of OSPE post intervention whereas the control group did not show significant difference except for the total score. Between group comparison showed significant differences in all the domains and total score in favor of the MP group. Also, the extent of improvement (effect size calculated using Cohen’s d) was more in the mental practice group than in the control group.
Conclusion: MP as an adjunct to physical practice is a time-and cost-effective strategy to augment traditional training and enhance performance of a neurodynamic skill in Physiotherapy students. This preliminary evidence supported by robust scientific base and ease of integration should facilitate adoption of MP in Physiotherapy education. We recommend future studies to further explore the potential of this promising tool.
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