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Comparing the Effects of Mental Imagery Rehearsal and Physical Practice on Learning Lumbar Puncture by Medical Students


Using mental imagery in clinical skills instruction can be a valuable teaching strategy. Prior studies have supported its use in the teaching of a variety of clinical skills including basic surgery and venipuncture. We extended this research to lumbar puncture. After viewing an instructional video, medical students received instruction on how to perform a lumbar puncture on simulators. The students were then randomized into two groups with one group receiving additional practice on the simulators and the other group receiving guided mental imagery practice. Students then performed a lumbar puncture as part of an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and were graded on a reliable rating instrument developed for this study. Consistent with prior studies, there was no statistically significant difference in performance between the group receiving additional physical practice and the group receiving guided mental imagery practice. Mental imagery practice appears to be an effective and cost-efficient method to teach lumbar puncture as well as a lifelong learning skill.

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Correspondence to Courtney West Ph.D..

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Bramson, R., Sanders, C.W., Sadoski, M. et al. Comparing the Effects of Mental Imagery Rehearsal and Physical Practice on Learning Lumbar Puncture by Medical Students. ANN BEHAV SCI MED EDUC 17, 3–6 (2011).

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Key words

  • clinical skills instruction
  • lumbar puncture
  • mental imagery
  • lifelong learning