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Neuroreport. 2001 Aug 8;12(11):2519-25.

Imagining rotation by endogenous versus exogenous forces: distinct neural mechanisms.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Previous neuroimaging studies of mental image transformations have sometimes implicated motor processes and sometimes not. In this study, prior to neuroimaging the subjects either viewed an electric motor rotating an angular object, or they rotated the object manually. Following this, they performed the identical mental rotation task in which they compared members of pairs of such figures, but were asked to imagine the figures rotating as they had just seen the model rotate. When results from the two rotation conditions were directly compared, motor cortex (including area M1) was found to be activated only when subjects imagined the rotations as a consequence of manual activity. Thus, there are at least two, qualitatively distinct, ways to imagine objects rotating in images, and these different strategies can be adopted voluntarily.

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