Influence of mental motor imagery on the execution of a finger-to-thumb opposition task.

A. Gemignani, M. Di Stefano, L. Sebastiani, B. Ghelarducci, M. Jeannerod, M. Guazzelli, R. Massarelli


The present fMRI study compares regional distribution of the cortical activity during the execution of unilateral hand movements (finger-to-thumb opposition) preceded or not by their motor simulation (S + E and E condition, respectively). The results show that, overall, the number and the spatial distribution of activated voxels are both increased in the S + E with respect to the E condition. The motor performance preceded by mental rehearsal is related to selective increase of the cortical activity. Among the motor areas that are found active during the simple motor execution a significant enhancement of functional activation during the S + E condition ipsilateral primary motor regions (M1). The activity increase may be accounted by a sort of neural recruiting that is made possible by the overlapping of cortical networks involved in both motor output and motor imagery. The beneficial effects of "mental practice" on the physical performance may rely to the close temporal association between motor rehearsal and actual performance.

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