Motor priming in neurorehabilitation

Mary Ellen Stoykov*, Sangeetha Madhavan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Priming is a type of implicit learning wherein a stimulus prompts a change in behavior. Priming has been long studied in the field of psychology. More recently, rehabilitation researchers have studied motor priming as a possible way to facilitate motor learning. For example, priming of the motor cortex is associated with changes in neuroplasticity that are associated with improvements in motor performance. Of the numerous motor priming paradigms under investigation, only a few are practical for the current clinical environment, and the optimal priming modalities for specific clinical presentations are not known. Accordingly, developing an understanding of the various types of motor priming paradigms and their underlying neural mechanisms is an important step for therapists in neurorehabilitation. Most importantly, an understanding of the methods and their underlying mechanisms is essential for optimizing rehabilitation outcomes. The future of neurorehabilitation is likely to include these priming methods, which are delivered prior to or in conjunction with primary neurorehabilitation therapies. In this Special Interest article, we discuss those priming paradigms that are supported by the greatest amount of evidence, including (i) stimulation-based priming, (ii) motor imagery and action observation, (iii) sensory priming, (iv) movement-based priming, and (v) pharmacological priming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015


  • Bilateral movement
  • Brain stimulation
  • Motor cortex
  • Priming
  • Sensory stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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