Studies on visualization have been conducted with astounding results

Muscular Improvements

  • Alvaro Pascual-Leone proved that mental practice of playing piano produces the same physical changes in the motor system as actually practicing a piece.
  • Guang Yue and Kelly Cole showed imagining using one’s muscles actually strengthens them by 22 percent.
  • LeCron used a combination of suggested visualization and increased physiological activity to increase breast size. The results were a size increase of 1.5 inches. Further studies showed the visualization in combination with feeling sensations of breast growth were necessary to achieve results.

Body Fat Reduction

  • Ellen Langer conducted a study of 84 hotel-maids. Hotel-maids were chosen because it was believed they did not exercise. The group was split in half. One half was informed that their activity in their occupation actually met the surgeon general’s definition of an active lifestyle. The other group were not told anything. One month later, the results were astounding. The group that were told of their activity level reduced their systolic blood pressure, weight and waist-to-hip ratio and had a 10% drop in blood pressure.
  • Weigensberg MJ studied the acute effects of stress-reduction interactive guided imagery on salivary cortisol in overweight Latino adolescents. The study concluded guided imagery may be feasible and effective in acutely reducing salivary cortisol levels in overweight Latino adolescents.
  • The Academy of Guided Imagery cited many resources highlighting clinical studies showing the benefits of imagery for weight loss and concludes that a guided imagery intervention may improve not only overweight patients’ weight and lower their anxiety about food but may mitigate or prevent ancillary diseases, improve patients’ general health, and reduce patients’ utilization of medical services.

Imagery and Visualization

  • D. L. Tusek and R. E. Cwynar of Ohio acknowledged that patients often describe the experience in a hospital as overwhelming, evoking fear, anger, helplessness, and isolation. A significant source of strength, support and courage can be provided through guided imagery. Tusek and Cwynar view guided imagery as one of the most well-studied complementary therapies being used that can improve the patient experience and outcome  as they prepare for a procedure or manage the stresses of a hospital stay. [AACN Clin Issues 2000 Feb; 11(1): 68-76].
  • V.W. Donaldson in NC at the Center for Stress Management examined the effects of mental imagery on the immune system response, and specifically, on depressed white blood cell (WBC) count. Results indicated significant increases in WBC count for all patients over a 90 day period, even when possessing disease and illness that would have predicted a decrease in WBC count. [Appl Psycholphysiol Biofeedback 2000 Jun; 25(2): 117-28].
  • L. M. Troesch et al of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute at Ohio State University in Columbus found that patients using a chemotherapy-specific guided-imagery audiotape expressed a significantly more positive experience with chemotherapy, finding guided imagery to be an effective intervention to promote patient involvement in self-care practices and to increase patient coping abilities during symptom occurrence. [Oncol Nurs Forum 1993 Sep; 20(8): 1179-85].
  • D. S. Burns at the Group/Walther Cancer Institute found that individuals who participated in guided imagery sessions scored better on both mood scores and quality of life scores than those who did not. Interestingly, these scores continued to improve in the experimental group, even after sessions were complete, indicating that guided imagery is effective in improving mood and quality of life in cancer patients. [J. Music Ther. 2001 spring; 38(1) :51-65].
  • Howard Hall, measuring the effects of healthy people imagining their white blood cells as strong as powerful sharks, found a number of subjects could demonstrate an increase in the number of lymphocytes as well as an increased responsiveness of the immune system after the session as compared to before. [Hall H R 1983 Hypnosis and the immune system. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 25:92-103].
  • Heremans E et al studied the facilitation of motor imagery through movement-related cueing. They concluded visual-related cues improved the spatial accuracy of the participants’ eye movement during imagery, and auditory cues specifically enhanced their temporal accuracy. This indicates subjects may imagine a movement in a better way when provided with external movement-related stimuli. This demonstrates the benefits of the style of guided imagery used within the Think for Fitness program.
  • Stenekes MW set out to determine whether motor imagery during the immobilization period after flexor tendon injury results in a faster recovery of central mechanisms of hand function. The study concluded that motor imagery significantly improves central aspects of hand function, namely movement preparation time.
  • Kirk J and Jahoda A studied the role of emotional imagery and somatosensory amplification in atypical chest pain in patients with angina pectoris. They concluded that the findings supported the view that anxiety processes can exacerbate and intensify the experience of atypical chest sensations in patients who have abnormal coronary anatomy.

Music Therapy

  • Music therapy and anxiety following surgery – one group of patients listened to music in the surgical holding area while the second group did not. Researchers concluded that the “results strongly suggest that if music were available to all patients in the Surgical Holding Area, most would select this option, and they would experience less anxiety.” – Winter MJ; Pakson S; Baker T. Music reduces stress and anxiety of patients in the surgical holding area. J Post Anesth Nurs (UNITED STATES) Dec 1994, 9 (6) p340-3.
  • Music therapy and anxiety after heart surgery – Bryan Memorial Hospital, Lincoln, USA investigated 96 patients who underwent elective, heart bypass surgery at the cardiovascular intensive care and progressive care units. Physiological data relating to anxiety and mood was obtained through blood pressure and heart rate as well as other means. Patients were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups. 1) music therapy, 2) music-video therapy, 3) scheduled rest group. Overall, the music therapy group showed significant effects over time for heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. – Barnason S; Zimmerman L; Nieveen J. The effects of music interventions on anxiety in the patient after coronary artery bypass grafting. Bryan Memorial Hospital, Lincoln, NE 68506, USA. Heart Lung (UNITED STATES) Mar-Apr 1995, 24 (2) p124-32.
  • The effects of music therapy on depressed older patients – 30 older adults experiencing symptoms of depression, distress and anxiety were assigned to eight weeks of either 1) a home-based program where patients learned music listening stress reduction techniques at weekly home visits by a music therapist 2) a self-administered program and 3) put on a waiting list. Results showed participants in both music conditions performed significantly better than the controls on standardized tests of depression, distress, self-esteem and mood. The results were clinically significant. – Hanser SB; Thompson LW. Effects of a music therapy strategy on depressed older adults. Stanford University School of Medicine. J Gerontol (UNITED STATES) Nov 1994, 49 (6) pP265-9.
  • Music therapy and pain management – Five healthy adult females kept a supine position for two hours without music. Complaints and variations of heart beat and respiration were observed in each subject during the two hour experiment. After five days these subjects had the same experience, but this time with music. Frequency of irregular respiration was found to be significantly reduced by the music. – Ishii C; Hagihara S; Minamisawa R. Effects of music on relieving pain associated with a compulsory posture, Nihon kango Kagakkaishi (JAPAN) July 1993, 13 (1) p20-7.


  • Fawzy et al found that information on the cancer and training in stress management and coping skills, showed participants exhibiting less fatigue, depression, mood disturbances, as well as increased vigor. [Fawzy F I, Kemeny M E, Fawzy N W et al. 1990 A structured psychiatric intervention for cancer patients: II. Changes over time in immunological measures. Archive of General Psychiatry 47:729-35].
  • B. L. Rees reported that patients receiving four weeks of relaxation and guided imagery scored significantly lower on trait anxiety, state anxiety, and depression, while scoring significantly higher on measurements of self-esteem. [J. of Holistic Nursing. 13(3): 255-267. Sept. 1995].
  • C.L. Norred at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center Department of Anesthesiology in Denver found that guided imagery may be an integrative therapy that can minimize preoperative anxiety. [AORN J 2000 Nov; 72(5): 838-40, 842-3].
  • S.A. Lambert found that guided imagery and relaxation therapy significantly lowered postoperative pain ratings and shortened the hospital stays, as well as decreased the postoperative anxiety [J Dev Behav Pediatr 1996 Oct; 17(5): 307-10].

Immune Response

  • K. Glaser and R. Glaser, studying a group of elderly people, found that over a month of relaxation training three times per week, significantly increased their natural killer lymphocytes and T cell activity. [Cousins N 1989 Head first. Dutton, NY].
  • J. Pennebaker found that confessional writing of the type that occurs when journaling, led to salubrious changes in the immune system and better health in general. He felt that there is structuring and resolving of the harmful effects of those hidden feelings and images going on through the process of writing. [Pennebaker J W 1990 Opening up: the healing power of confidence in others. Avon, NY].
  • Danish researchers found increased natural killer cell activity among ten college students who imagined that their immune systems were becoming very effective. Natural killer (NK) cells are an important part of the immune system because they can recognize and destroy virus-infected cells, tumor cells and other invaders. A group of metastatic cancer patients using daily imagery for a year achieved significant improvements in NK cell activity and several other measures of immune functioning.
  • C. Holden-Lund found that the use of an audiotape series employing relaxation with guided imagery demonstrated significantly less state anxiety, lower cortisol levels one day following surgery, and less surgical wound erythema than the control group. Thus, the guided imagery tapes demonstrated stress-relieving outcomes closely associated with healing. [Res Nurs Health 1988 Aug; 11(4):235-44].


  • B Wuyam et al studied the cardiorespiratory response to imagination of previously performed treadmill exercise in six competitive sportsmen and six non-athletic males. In athletes, imagined exercise produced increases in ventilation, which varied within and between subjects. The mean maximal increase was approximately 20% of the ventilator response to actual exercise. The non-athletes did not show significant variation – this shows the importance of the instructional DVD to enable all listeners to understand WHY they are doing the exercise, HOW to do it and what to FEEL.


  • V. Kerry Smith et al discovered longevity expectations do predict mortality reasonably well due to a health and retirement survey conducted.
  • Joel E Bialosky et al trialled expectation on spinal manipulation induced hypoalgesia (a decreased sensitivity to painful stimuli) . Six healthy subjects were randomly assigned to receive a positive or negative or neutral expectation instructional set regarding the effects of a specific spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) technique on pain perception. Results showed a significant increase in pain perception following SMT in the low back of those receiving negative expectation suggestions.
  • Austin S Baldwin et al studied the effect of having an expectation on anticipated interpersonal power. Two studies were conducted and in both cases, expectation resulted in higher feelings of perceived power.
  • J Kong et al used the well known fact that expectation can significantly modulate pain perception. This study looked at the interaction and dissociation between expectation of pain relief and acupuncture treatment. It was discovered that the expectation given prior to acupuncture did significantly influence acupuncture analgesia for experimental pain.



  • The Academy for Guided Imagery cite many resources highlighting clinical studies showing the benefits of imagery and concludes that a guided imagery program can help increase patients’ perceived well-being, self–management skills and reduce consumption of medical resources.

Back and Neck Pain

  • The Academy for Guided Imagery cite many resources highlighting clinical studies showing the benefits of imagery for back pain and concludes that a guided imagery program can be a cost-effective complementary treatment for chronic pain, including back pain.

Cancer Pain

  • The Academy for Guided Imagery cite many resources highlighting clinical studies showing the benefits of imagery for cancer pain and concludes that a guided imagery program can contribute to controlling pain and anxiety in cancer patients and in some cases, can allow reduction of medication usage.


  • The Academy for Guided Imagery cite many resources highlighting clinical studies showing the benefits of imagery for fibromyalgia and concludes that a guided imagery program can help patients cope with fibromyalgia syndrome, save medical care resources and reduce patient economic burdens and suffering.


  • The Academy for Guided Imagery cite many resources highlighting clinical studies showing the benefits of imagery for headaches and concludes that a guided imagery, especially as an adjunctive treatment, can be a cost-effective way to reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of headaches as well as the number of headache-related office visits.

Nerve Pain

  • The Academy of Guided Imagery cite many resources highlighting clinical studies showing the benefits of imagery for nerve pain and concludes that a guided imagery program involving relaxation and positive suggestion can help lower stress, improve coping skills, enhance an overall sense of emotional well-being, and help make lifestyle changes.


  • The Academy of Guided Imagery cite many resources highlighting clinical studies showing the benefits of imagery for PMS and concludes that using guided imagery to reduce the severity of PMS and menstrual pain can lead to increased comfort and decreased absenteeism, without the cost of potential undesirable side effects of some medications.



  • Wesa KM conducted a study to determine if there is a role for complementary therapy in the management of leukemia. The study concluded complementary therapies are pleasant, inexpensive, nonpharmocoligic and effective. For patients with leukemia, the therapies that are always appropriate include mind-body interventions such as self-hypnosis, meditation, guided imagery and breath awareness. Also, physical fitness with regular exercise and healthy dietary habits can significantly decrease side effects of cancer treatments and may prolong survival.


  • Fawzy Fawzy MD and his colleagues studied the effects of support groups that use imagery and relaxation with early stage melanoma patients. The study showed that after six months, these patients had significantly decreased negative mood states and significantly increased natural killer cell activity. Dr Fawzy reinforced David Spiegels findings published in Lancet in 1989 that support groups that taught relaxation and imagery prolonged patients’ lives significantly. (Malignant Melanoma: Effects of Early Unstructured Psychiatric Intervention; Recurrence and Survival 6 Years Later. Archives of General Psychiatry: 1003;50).


  • Henry Dreher demonstrated in three metaanalyses that preoperative mind-body interventions have been proven consistently effective in improving postoperative medical and psychological outcomes. In the largest metaanalyses (191 studies with more than 8,600 patients) psychosocial/behavioral interventions showed improved recovery, pain reduction, and reduced psychological stress. Length of hospital stay was decreased an average of 1.5 days. These studies have shown reduced blood loss and postoperative pain, and improved wound healing, and speed of recovery. (Tusek, DL et al: Guided Imagery: A Significant Advance in The Care of Patients Undergoing Elective Colorectal Surgery. Dis Colon Rectum, 1997; 40:172-178).


  • James Halper at Lenox Hill Hospital studied the effect of guided imagery on asthma patients, and showed that although imagery did not decrease measurable asthma symptoms, significantly more patients were able to discontinue their medication. Not surprisingly, he also found significantly less depression and anxiety in the guided imagery group than in the control group. (Halper, L. Alternative Health Practitioner: The Journal of Complementary and Natural Care, vol.3 (3), Fall/ Winter, 1997).


  • Page SJ et al studied the cortical plasticity following motor skill learning during mental practice in stroke. The study concluded mental practice was an easy to use, cost-effective strategy that was again shown to improve affected arm outcomes after stroke. This is the first study to demonstrate alteration in the cortical map in response to mental practice training.
  • Karen PY et al expanded on previous studies, which showed that mental imagery intervention enhanced post stroke patients relearning daily task performance. This study tested the efficacy of mental imagery for promoting generalization of the task skills learned in a training environment to trained and untrained tasks carried out in a novel environment. The study concluded mental imagery intervention was useful for improving patients’ ability on performing the tasks, which they did not previously train on and in places different from the training environments.