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Cereb Cortex. 2004 Nov;14(11):1200-6. Epub 2004 May 13.

The influence of hand posture on corticospinal excitability during motor imagery: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study.

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  • 1Institute of Cognitive Sciences, UMR 5015, 67 Boulevard Pinel, 69675, Bron Cedex, France.


In order to study the interaction between proprioceptive information and motor imagery, we herein investigate how compatible and incompatible postural signals influence corticospinal excitability during the mental simulation of hand movements. Subjects were asked to imagine themselves joining the tips of the thumb and the little finger while they maintained one of the two following hand postures: posture A (PA, compatible), little finger, index and thumb extended, the remaining fingers flexed; or posture B (PB, incompatible), index and thumb extended, other fingers flexed. All subjects rated the imagined finger opposition movements as easier to perform when the hand was kept in PA than in PB (P < 0.01) and the correlation between the duration of motor imagery and movement execution was also higher for PA than PB (P < 0.01). For each posture, motor evoked potentials (MEPs) elicited by focal transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the left motor cortex were recorded from the right opponens pollicis muscle during both motor imagery (MI) and rest (R) conditions. MEP area varied according to the hand posture: PA induced a higher increase in corticospinal excitability, when compared with PB. These results indicate that the actual limb posture affects the process of motor imagery. The source of this postural modulation effect is discussed.

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