Spectra Undergraduate Research Journal


Health & Natural Sciences & Engineering > Health Sciences > Mental Health


April 20, 2022


August 19, 2022


August 31, 2022


Madelyn Colbert (MC)1*

Author Affiliations

1School of Life Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, USA.

Corresponding Author

*Madelyn Colbert, colbem1@unlv.nevada.edu

Author Contributions

MC: Conceived the idea of the present study, as well as designed and implemented the research, to the extent of carrying out the intervention, analyzing the results, and writing the manuscript

Data Availability Statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available upon request from the corresponding author, MC. The data are not publicly available due to them containing information that could compromise research participant privacy and consent.

Conflicts of Interest

All authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Considerations

Prior to the onset of intervention, the present study received approval by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


No funding was provided for this research.


Exercise is a commonly used non-pharmacological treatment to improve the mental and physical health of patients with varying conditions. However, not all patients have the means to participate in exercise and/or physical exertion. Motor imagery training (MIT) is visualizing a task without motor output. Evidence has demonstrated MIT to enhance physical function with and without adjacent physical practice. A qualitative research study was conducted to examine the effectiveness of utilizing MIT as a depression and anxiety reducing alternative to exercise. Seven participants meeting the selection criteria were randomized into (a) the exercise group, or (b) the MIT group. The three participants in the exercise group engaged in two structured 20-minute aerobic exercise classes per week for three weeks. The four participants assigned to the MIT group engaged in the same dosage of structured MIT sessions. Data was collected through phenomenological interviews both before and after the exercise and MIT interventions. Four themes emerged from the interview, which included: (1) feeling refreshed and energized, (2) decrease in depressive-like symptoms, (3) overall improvement in mood perception, and (4) improvement in physical health. The results of the study suggest that the usage of MIT can improve aspects of mental health. Thus, it is proposed that future research should further investigate using MIT as a mental health improving alternative to exercise for those with physical activity restrictions.


Motor imagery training (MIT), substance use disorders (SUD), aerobic exercise, depression, mood perception, non-pharmacological treatment, rehabilitation

Submission Type

Primary research article